Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Charters in LA

I found this article, from last year no less, on the Broad Foundation and LA public schools. (Let me just say I am a bit unclear of the source of the article - it isn't exactly neutral.) From the article:

"The charter school movement in Los Angeles received a $23.3 million boost today from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation through new grants to three leading charter school organizations: KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program), Aspire Public Schools and Pacific Charter School Development, Inc. These grants bring the total Broad Foundation investment in Los Angeles charters -- that will serve 25,000 total students -- to $56 million since 2000."

So in less than 10 years, the Broad Foundation has pumped $56M into charters in L.A.

"High-quality public charter schools in Los Angeles are showing dramatic results in improving student achievement, and we need to do what we can to make sure the best models are available to as many students as possible," said Eli Broad, founder of The Broad (rhymes with "road") Foundation. "Successful charter schools, like KIPP and Aspire Public Schools, have already set the platinum standard in education in Los Angeles, and developers like Pacific Charter School Development are enabling these schools to use their resources for students rather than facilities."

"Pacific Charter School Development, Inc. will receive a $6 million interest-free loan to leverage more than $30 million in project financing to create more than 6,000 new, state-of-the-art campus seats in Los Angeles' most underserved neighborhoods in the next 10 years. PCSD will also receive $333,000 for operations."

Ah, and who is Pacific Charter School Development? A non-profit real estate organization. Who helped them get started?

"NewSchools Venture Fund was instrumental in providing the seed capital and expertise required to establish the organization. Since PCSD’s inception, NewSchools has been joined by The Broad Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as providers of project equity. Operational support has been provided by these same organizations along with the Pisces Foundation, The Ahmanson Foundation, and The Weingart Foundation."

If you are keeping up with the charter push, these are the major players as far as foundations are concerned.

And PCSD's clients are:
I'm assuming they pick who they help and those are the "gold standard" charters.

How does PCSD help?

"Our main goal is to eliminate charter school operators’ need to be involved in facility work so they can focus on teaching children. For this to occur, we serve as a nonprofit developer and benevolent landlord, leasing campuses to high-quality charter schools.

PCSD pursues an effective “fill-in” strategy compared with the massive, slowly developed, district-built options. PCSD’s model is to retrofit existing buildings for use as future schools. We target buildings between 40,000 and 80,000 square feet on three- to five-acre parcels. We also do ground-up construction when the opportunity to do presents itself.

Our business model uses a combination of philanthropic equity, debt provided by socially-conscious lenders and credit enhancements from federal, state and local guarantors. We use this funding to finance the campuses we build at a cost of capital far below that available to charter schooloperators. We pass this economic savings on to the charter schools through below market rents, including furniture, fixtures and equipment."

Benevolent landlord, you have to love that.

I have to say as someone who is interested in capital issues, I wonder if they do better at fixing up buildings at a lower cost than, say, our district. Also, that "below market rents" is a huge thing for a charter school along with the necessary goods.

Their "value proposition"?

"Our value proposition is:

  • To provide successful charter school entrepreneurs with high-quality, low-cost facility options, especially during their first years of operations
  • To provide lenders with a less risky alternative to individual charter school financing
  • To provide foundations a way to accelerate the growth of high-quality charter schools to change the face of public education"
It's brilliant, absolutely. If we had charters in Seattle, this group would have a pick of our empty SPS buildings (and we certainly have a lot of them).

So now LA is giving up 250 schools so that charters can take over and with PCSD, it looks like it's full steam ahead.

Do you hear that train coming? It's building up steam as we speak. And so, when I see the list of alternative schools listed, both on the most recent SPS home calendar AND the SPS website, grow smaller, I have to wonder what is coming. Yes, we still have our alternatives but they seem to be somewhat swept under the carpet otherwise, why are they not noted on the calendar and the website as alternatives? I think alternative school parents have very, very good reasons to worry. But don't worry; at this rate, you can always reopen as a charter later on.


seattle citizen said...


So THAT'S what they're gonna do with all the empty malls.

The "paramount" duty of Washington is to educate its children. I don't think the constitution writers, back in 1889, had in mind to do this by selling public schools, and the duty to educate our future citizens, to the highest bidder.

Keep public schools public.

SPSMom said...

But charters are not legal in Seattle. How do they get around that?

Sahila said...

SPS Mom - you watch the push to legalise charters - it'll be up for another vote and watch the spin... watch Gregoire backpedal - she has to do something to make the state eligible for the Race to the Top funds - otherwise she'll be accused of neglecting our kids' needs, especially with this current law suit demanding that the state fund education properly...

The wind up has already started - all the press about it being the teachers' (union's) fault that our kids are not doing well academically, and that schools are poorly managed by Boards - see the push by two Mayoral candidates to say that mayoral control of school districts is logical and reasonable... this is Broad speaking - see what's just happened in LA....

If you really want to become knowledgeable about all this - where its come from and where its going, please, please, please go and read the material available at:


Isabel D'Ambrosia said...

Be careful because I think there are many readers of this blog that actually support charters. Sure, they're still illegal in Seattle, but things can change.

I often wonder if the anti-charter movement is mostly created and perpetuated by the teacher's union.

We must admit that some charters work great for the kids they are set up to serve. That fact seems to get lost in the discussion a lot of the time.

Our efforts need to be about serving kids -- not just sticking to an "anti-charter" doctrine. If some charters do a great job serving kids that have otherwise been poorly served -- then I'm for 'em.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I personally have NEVER said that charters are all bad. But, overall, they don't perform any better so it's quite the social experiment to turn that many schools and that much money over to an experiment. So no, I don't think it's a big union plot against charters. I think there are people, like me, who think there are a lot of unanswered questions to why the only reform is charters.

KIPP won't work on a big scale; I just don't see that many parents buying into it.

seattle citizen said...

MY problem with charters is that they aren't public schools. They're some sort of mutant, depending on their charter, that gives lots of power away from the Board (elected by the citizens) and puts it into....parents? non-profit? corporate? hands.

If one believes in public education, one beleives in public schools. Chrater schools are a dilution of the "public" in public schools. In regular publics, the board runs things (ideally): as the duly elected representatives of the public, they design policy, enact it, etc. Charters are NOT public schools: they don't follow the same set of rules.
Regular publics follow policy that has, over the years, changed and adapted to meet the taxpayers expectations about what a public school should do: The "rules" and policy are the rules and policies of the public (represented by the board.) Charters are not part of this legacy. They aren't publics. Why should the public give money to these non-public entities?

My guess is that there might be a legal case to be made that charters run contrary to the state constitution: The constitution places education as the repsonsibility of the state, through duly elected boards. How then, can those boards give away this responsibility to non-public entities? You could argue that they are accountable, but that is only to, I suppose, certain results such as WASL scores. What about accountability to all the public policies that the board creates, acting as the agent of the public?

That's why I don't like charters: They're not public schools.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

I agree with Seattle Citizen. Charter Schools are not public schools. Besides, we already have some terrific schools in Seattle. Note the key word SOME. The last thing we need is a few more "better" schools that only some of the students can access, or only serve a particular student population.
Seattle needs to figure out a way to serve all of the students of the various neighborhoods. KIPP schools and the like won't do that. They will serve a select few, and the rest of Seattle sudents will still be lacking.

Isabel D'Ambrosia said...

I don't get why KIPP can't go ahead and serve the "select few" that they excel at serving. They do a great job of addressing the needs of a group of kids the "public" system has seriously failed. KIPP does not need to work on a big scale! It just needs to focus on the kids they serve well.

What is wrong with having a few "better" schools for kids who need KIPP? Especially when the public system can only seem to provide "struggling" schools to those kids.

My point was not that Melissa thinks all charters are bad. The point is that the discussion on this blog is distinctly anti-charter. (Like Seattle Citizen, who won't give these great schools a chance just because they're not "public" enough. That's just about dogma, it's not about the KIDS.)

Of course charters in general don't perform any better than the public system -- overall. That's why you look for the best charters and use only those.

wseadawg said...

Many on this blog are distinctly anti-charters, because reform advocates who push charters are distinctly anti-union, secretive, and blatantly dishonest.

If charter proponents had such a great product to deliver, they wouldn't have to slime career teachers who happen to be union members and demonize them for collective bargaining.

The problem I have with KIPP and other charter operators is that they operate on the same never-ending growth model that U.S. Corporations operated on, right over the cliff, then the economy crashes and millions get victimized. This time, it will only be a generation of kids. KIPP, Green Dot, etc. want to take over and privatize public education as we know it, and don't be fooled by "non-profit" designations. When you see the salaries the owners and administrators make, it ain't no non-profit to them. It's a cash cow.

Lastly, as we all should recognize, charters produce about the same results as regular schools, but you'd never know that by reading all the press about them. So for anyone who's a big charter fan or even thinking about it, ask yourselves why they are being sold so forcefully by their proponents as the answer to closing the achievement gap and getting all the at risk kids into college, when overall, they're no better than traditional public schools. It's a load of crap and a first-class hoodwink job.

Maybe if they were honest about their product and did their administrative work out in the open, I'd support them. But they don't. Read the Enron-like history of the Edison Schools and see how over-hyped and under-performing they were if you need a little background on my skepticism.

To me, it's just another way to grab taxpayer dollars from the many and funnel them into the hands of the few, whether they operate as non-profits or not.

If the money doesn't go directly into the hands of the EMO executives, it's laundered through their curriculum provider, software provider, nutrition provider, or uniform manufacturing buddies.

There will always be a new frontier for privatization proponents to exploit for their own gain. In the 90's they tried to get us to pay them to stop polluting. Later it was public power grids they ripped us off with. This time, they are lining up at the public education trough.

They'd charge us for the air we breathe if they could.

Sorry, but don't tell me it's "all about the kids."

Deidre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adhoc said...

"KIPP won't work on a big scale; I just don't see that many parents buying into it."

No, KIPP may not work on a large scale, but it may work in some communities. It may work at Madrona? And it may work in other schools where parents welcome that type of structure (yes, some parents do seek this type of structure and who are we to say they are wrong).

And, what about all of the other types of charter schools that nobody on this blog ever ever mentions? What about all of the Waldorf Charter Schools? What about the Charter school of performing arts in Philadelphia? Or the Idaho Arts Charter school of Dance? Or the Academy of Science charter school in Buffalo? The Cleveland Entrepreneurial prep? Or Cleveland's Inter generational charter? Or the Chicago International Charter School? How About the Pegasus charter school of Liberal Arts in Texas? Or the Meridien Medical Arts Charter School?

So, please lets remember that KIPP is not interchangeable with charter school. Kipp is only one type of Charter school - just as AKI is only one middle school here in Seattle and is not representative of all of our middle schools.

and WSEADOG said "When you see the salaries the owners and administrators make, it ain't no non-profit to them. It's a cash cow. "

Same could be said for MGJ with her grossly over inflated salary. What do you say about that? How about our over bloated JSCS staff? How about the Broad Fellows? One might think of SPS as a Cash Cow too?

I'm not pro or anti charter, yet. I want to look at them fairly, with all of the facts. I don't think that happens on this blog. If it were an open minded, factual discussion, it would be much more productive.

And BTW, charter schools are public schools - just a different form. They are funded by public dollars, and open to public school children, tuition free. Yes, they get private funding too, but hey, that's already happening in Seattle isn't it? And their is a push for more of it (see KSB's web page).

I'm don't support LA's move to add so many charters. That is a big step and I wouldn't be comfortable with that. But I'm also not ready to trash charters at all levels and in all in all forms.

seattle citizen said...

Adhoc, you write that "charter schools are public schools - just a different form. They are funded by public dollars, and open to public school children, tuition free."
But they their charters remove them from the system. Their charters give them all sorts of freedom from accountability to the policies enacted by the public boards. This is the very reason charter operators like them: They can do stuff that is not in accord with board policy.

It's EXACTLY like Blackwater: My belief is that our armed forces should be exactly that: OUR armed forces. When we privatized part of our army by hiring it out to for-profit companies, we lost the accountability, the chain of responsibility. Note the trouble there has been in trying to prosecute Blackwater...employees? mercenaries? who commit crimes. "It's out of our jurisdiction."

As to KIPP, how do we KNOW they are doing well? Reports in just three broad categories? And why "those populations"? The poor? The struggling? THEY get schools that are highly scripted and disciplined, no art, no PE, no drafting, no APP, maybe no SpEd, probably no "trouble" kids (I believe charters operate like privates in this regard: Students are allowed in until they break the rules, then they've "blown their chance," broken their contract, so they're kicked to the curb. I would be highly suspicious of anyone who said that gang-bangers are educated in the charter system. (again, I'm not sure of this, but personally I can't see some students following the structure and dictates that seem to be the basis of many charters. What about the free-thinkers? What about inquiry-based learning? Charters, or at least the ones that purport to take care of "those not being served," seem to be "my way or the highway" operations.

And again, there's the profit piece. Why should my tax dollar, my public education dollar, go into someone's profit? I want my dollars spent on public schools that comply with all the board policies. Othewise, why wouldn't we just dole out state dollars directly to whomever opens a building and says, "I'm a school!"?

Our public mandate is to educate children. Our dollars and accountability are put into public districts, and then into public schools operated by those districts. Charters, by their very nature, place themselves outside that cricle of accountability: why should they get the public funding?

WenG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WenG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adhoc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WenG said...

wseadawg: Your post reminded me of my son's Channel One years. He was relieved when his teacher turned it off. This broke the SPS agreement, but why start the day with Snickers ads? This episode in pointless private funding told him that school wasn't always about learning. Do you remember the pretext for Channel One? Without them, SPS couldn't afford to put shiny monitors in every classroom. The leg wasn't going to pay for it. Schools didn't gain much, and the students thought it was a joke.

The more top-heavy a district grows, the more passivelyol their boards behave, the more swiftly a school will fall. Mary Bass was the only director to stand up and say what others wouldn’t, “There’s a $34 million hole in this budget.” The rest of the board essentially said, “So what?” Maybe this is why she’s not as outspoken as we’d like her to be.

I'm originally from AZ, the leader in charters, and while I was initially excited about them, I haven't seen any great gains. My friends in AZ don't report a lot of happiness with the system, compared to where they were at before charters.

Charters have their place, but I won't support them if they're used to plug budget holes after years of bad management, or a means to throw unions under the bus and save some pocket change.

adhoc said...

And, before someone mentions that our alt schools act like charter schools (which I acknowledge they do)let's think about this

A) When was the last time SPS opened a new Alt school? Not in a very very long time. In fact there is not even a protocol or policy for opening a new alt school.

B) Last year SPS closed Summitt, one of the few remaining alt schools and displaced over 500 children. They gave AS1 a 1 year stay of execution and limited their draw and transportation. They moved NOVA into a less than satisfactory building.

C) And lets not forget that as we align curriculum our alts are becoming less and less "alt". They have to use EDM and CMP for math just like every other school in the district. Alt K-5 grades use the NSF science kits like every other school. Alt middle schools have to use Writers Workshop like every other school. They even have to begin and end their day at the exact same time as every other school does. They are being robbed of all autonomy. They are less and less alternative every year. They are a dying breed in this district. Unsupported by our administration.

Are our alt schools really our defense against allowing charter schools in? I don't think so. I think anti charter proponents are going to have to come up with more than that.

On a side note, and yet AGAIN Seattle Citizen brings up KIPP. He is totally unwilling to acknowledge that KIPP is only one type of charter school. Further he is unwilling to accept that KIPP charter schools are choice schools and that some parents Like the KIPP model and CHOOSE it for their children. He refuses to acknowledge that some parents don't don't want their kids to have PE, or art, or gardening (check out Madrona right here in SPS). Seattle Citizen is closed minded. In fact he is so liberal that he is conservative.

WenG said...

Here's a link from The Arizona Republic. I think it's a fair treatment of the charter culture in AZ, especially the part about "shoddy financial practices."


My biggest concern is the dominance of chains that move in to exploit school money. It's like mixed use developments. The same national chain restaurants and stores, eating up every block. Are they really any better than a local business? Do they exist as a write-off more than a healthy business; as means to cheapen the labor market? Which matters more, the student or the profit potential?

emeraldkity said...

I was just in San Francisco- where their schools started a week or so ago.
I also found this blog which has interesting reading- re: Seattle & charters

WenG said...

Adhoc: You've said it. The alternatives schools in SPS, the ones that were allowed to grow for over two decades, are being dismantled. This is where I see the argument that our true alternative schools, (not re-entry schools, as MG-J sees them), are being bulldozed, paving the way for corporate charters. If parents like KIPP, that's good, but destroying autonomous schools, schools that were independently grown, to make way for processed cheese curricula and top down, Broad approved management, smacks of greasing the skids for private parties that won't improve upon what we had. I fear they'll offer worse than what we had, because of poor oversight from the start. I'll support charters based on a preview of who will benefit from them.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Adhoc, yes, charters are public schools in a very broad sense. But, again, they get to write their charters which whoever the governing party is (and this varies from state to state), approves. Most charters don't have to and just plain old don't design their programs for either special ed, bilingual and/or advanced learners.

That is a huge difference between public and charters and it leaves actual public schools with the most challenging students and fewer dollars to educate them.

So that's no teachers union (which may or may not be a good thing - I think the jury is out on that issue as well) and not having to take all comers. That works out well if you want to start a school on your own terms.

If WA State had charter law that said every charter had to serve one or more of these populations, I'd take a real look at it. Just saying we help free/reduced lunch students in a super structured way doesn't make it for me.

And Madrona and AAA are/were pretty structured. Going the complete KIPP route is really going to make a difference?

TechyMom said...

I was also just in San Francisco, and two families I know there were very excited to have gained seats (last minute, through a wait list) at the Creative Arts Charter School. This looks like a really wonderful school to me, and has elements that are similar to my favorite Seattle alt schools. Charters don't have to be bad or corporate.

I would never send my child to KIPP. But, then, I'd never send her to Madrona or AAA either. I'd be thrilled to send her to a school like Creative Arts Charter, just like I'd be happy to send her to TOPS or Thorton Creek or Summit. Do we have to have "one size fits all"? Can't we have a diversity of options available to families based on their values and needs? Families who like Summit and families who like Madrona are never going to be happy in the same program. It might be "good enough" for many of them, but not nearly as good as the program they would have chosen.

So, charters or alts, I don't really care. Just give me a school with the sort of program I value, and give it enough autonomy to stay true to its mission.

wseadawg said...

Adhoc: Why so touchy re: KIPP?

Look, obviously there are exceptions to every rule and anectodal evidence to support almost anything. As I've said many, many times, Charters aren't inherently evil and neither are Corporations, but they can, and have become the perfect vehicle for those will ill-intentions to exploit for huge personal gains at great expense to the common folks like you and I. So don't just look at the trees; look at the Forest AND the Trees.

The larger issues, as WenG and Seattle Citizen point out, are Privatization making inroads into the sphere of Public Education in ways far beyond where they've ever gone before. Suppliers and manufacturers have always sold goods to schools, but now they want to take over management and operation, which means corporatist ideals imposed upon our children's minds.

In the Forest of the national reform movement led by Arne Duncan and his cronies, Charters have become a vehicle and "it's all about the kids" have become the slogan for a lot of shoddy management practices that hurt kids, and that are allowed to go on without adequate oversight and accountability.

Charters deserve to be judged on their own merits. On that we agree. But today, they are being pumped and oversold by corporate america, the Dept of Education, and billionaire oligarchs while great teachers in great public schools are maligned as "status quo, lazy, uncreative, and ineffective." That is patently unfair and misleading. It's also dangerous.

In a fair environment, both Charters and Non-Charters should be judged on their own merits, but that is not happening right now. Thus, people like yourself, who care and want as much of what's best for my neighbors' kids as for my own, are saying "Not So Fast! Wait a Minute Here!"

And I, for one, would appreciate you not labeling and attacking people who take the time to participate in this democratic exchange of ideas, including rants. This is a healthy discussion and I'd like to see it stay that way. Let's keep it civil.

wseadawg said...

And I think after 8 years of a President and Administration who so effectively manipulated public opinion to summon support for their agendas, people are wisely skeptical of what appears to be a money-laden, agenda-driven cabal of business folk and politicians who are telling us to just trust them and buy into what they want without revealing what they really have in store for us and our kids.

One has to admire the Charter/Mayoral Control/Electronic Curriculum/Merit Pay/EMO crowd for how quickly and effectively they can invade communities and impose their ideals.

TechyMom said...

Oh, and California has alternative schools too, such as Berkeley Arts Magnet. But, uh oh, look at that... This storied alternative school, founded in the most progressive of communities in the 1970s, is being forced to change its program by NCLB and is using... wait for it... Everyday Math and Writers Workshop.

What I like about the idea of a charter is that the charter document protects the school from the forces of sameness.

adhoc said...

Melissa said "And Madrona and AAA are/were pretty structured. Going the complete KIPP route is really going to make a difference?"

Well, yes, maybe, if the KIPP school is academically successful. Madrona is (and AAA was) a very low performing school. In fact they were two of the lowest performing schools in the district. If KIPP was able to offer the structure that they had ALONG WITH high academic performance it would indeed be a better option for the families who seek this style of education for their kids.

On a different note, why couldn't Seattle write specific requirements into a charter bill? Why couldn't we make it a requirement that charter schools must serve a certain percent of special ed, bilingual, and advanced learners? Or that they could not accept kids based on test scores? Or that they have to serve a certain percent of low income students?

And why couldn't Seattle families have a say in what type of charter schools they want? Why couldn't it be written into the charter bill that no "corporate chain" style charters are permitted, but grassroots, local charters are (if indeed this is what the majority of Seattle Citizens want)?

Why does it have to be all or nothing? Or only corporate? Isn't there a middle ground? And if there is then why aren't we discussing it?

And, lastly, WSEADG, I'm touch about KIPP because I feel like folks posting on this blog use the word "KIPP" interchangeably with the words "charter schools". That is misleading. There are many different types of charter schools from grassroots charters and community schools, to liberal arts and specialty focus charters, to corporate militant KIPP style schools. Yet, KIPP is the only model that anti charter folks use as an example. That is misleading, so yes, I am a bit touchy. And sorry if I was snarky.

emeraldkity said...

It is interesting that in an area where we can get our coffee 150 different ways in at least that many shops, and where we know the difference between unagi and Seattle sushi , we think that education should be standardized- " aligned", homogenized and " reformed".

My youngest daughter didn't learn to read till she was in third grade- she is at least as intelligent as my daughter who was tested as 160iq at the same age.

I agree with certifying teachers and evaluating curriculum but I want the freedom to have input into how my children are educated without going to the extreme of homeschooling them.

I don't like the idea of for profit charters ( or daycares)-I think we should have more choices not fewer.

But I don't know how that is going to work for every family anymore than anyone else does.

I do know that this supe and her background makes me nervous.

( KIPP also hasn't been that successful in the Bay area, unless you think getting 60% of students to leave except for the highest achievers = success)

Melissa Westbrook said...

No one says "all or nothing". I certainly never did.

But you are naive if you think (1) Seattle would get some sort of special provision in any charter bill (really, call your Rep or Senator and ask) and (2) it would be easy to shut out any type of charter per se especially when they are backed by both the Feds and powerful foundations.

I don't think KIPP is the anti-Christ. But KIPP is touted, over and over, as the great model. I think the issue is that yes, there are great individual charters but the problem is people want to see duplication on a mass level to say, see, it works. KIPP provides that (and Green Dot is coming up fast on their heels).

I think what will be funny to stand back and watch is when charters have to compete against each other.

My worry is a charter bill that is either very broad or structured in a way that favors large, established charter groups (and their foundations). I'm all for innovative schools and new ideas but what if the big charter groups crowd them out?

wseadawg said...

Adhoc, you're right that were we to have charters we should be able to specify or regulate what they can and cannot do. But could we? That's the real issue. Right now the movement is so large and well-funded, its bearing down on us like a freight train, and if there's one thing we know, the powers that be do not listen to us parents.

Many groups who previously supported charters regret it now, because their support was taken for granted and co-opted by private, for-profit groups, or non-profit groups run by people with huge, power-hungry egos, who took parents and community support as an opening to slide in with their own agenda, instead of responding to the needs and demands of communities. That's the side of the story that needs to be told, and it isn't happening. So-called "parents unions," for example, have been used and manipulated by Charter operators like Green Dot and KIPP to bash and scapegoat union teachers and basically privatize large portions of urban school districts, while making some nice profits for their owners.

What you're really talking about is maintaining a proper balance of power between a school, the community in which it sits, its parent and student population, and the larger district that it competes with for resources. If that balance of power, along with adequate oversight and accountability could be achieved, opposition would wane.

I and others have not seen that happening yet in SPS, and I can't imagine seeing it happen with a Charter in Seattle.

If a grassroots group really wants a charter, I wouldn't oppose it. But if its a phony grass-roots group fronting for big money interests, forget it.

Seeing how the current board & SI genuflect to Gates and Broad, I think they'd be wearing knee-pads if we had Charters too.

another mom said...

I don't know if I am for or against charter schools. Frankly, I don't know much about them and after a brief perusal of Kipp's website, I am underwhelmed. Some of their schools do very well and some not so much...like public schools. What is missing from the data on the website are statistics about dropout rates,discipline,expulsions, etc. or at least I could not find it. Public schools have that information available for all to see. Additionally, where do those who are expelled or leave the charter school end up? It is ironic though that the idea behind charters is to allow families to choose a public school that best meets the needs of their children-something that SPS has determined is too expensive.

owlhouse said...

Melissa has it right- there is no fail-safe way to write a charter that guarantees community values and input. I don't trust that we can create state legislation that will keep our charters "in house". I remember reading about legal proceedings in states that didn't offer "competitive access" to charter agents.

Nationally, the incestuous bunch of edu-preneurs have the support of the billionaires and their foundations. With the money and influence it affords, they've capitalized on the community and parental concerns (fears) of failure, using NCLB stats as prof that public education is a failure. Not only are the taking over public schools, they are moving in on smaller and independent charters. And yes, I do distinguish between "public" and "charter" schools.

We are witnessing, in some cases inviting, the creeping privatization of of public schools. With this new wave of charters, I see an increase in racial and economic segregation, a tiered system. Waldorf, arts and science for some, drills and behavioral modification for others. Because public education has not been able to compensate for the devastation of multi-generational poverty, we're ready to sell kids to handlers who can prove results though temporary gains in 2 or 3 subject areas. It's wrong. It's developmentally inappropriate and I'd argue an attack on the civil rights of children.

adhoc, we went back and forth on KIPP months ago. I absolutely recognize the diversity of charters and don't use KIPP as a universal term. I also know that the locally controlled independent charters are losing ground to the big-business venture-philanthropists whom I do not trust to educate our citizens. As an parent and tax payer, I'm attracted to the idea of schools with differing philosophies and practices. While charters could offer this, I believe the trade off is too costly in too many ways.

wseadawg said...

I trust that an informed electorate makes better choices than one that relies upon promises from politicians and corporate spokespeople. That's all I hope to achieve by pointing out the back story of Charters. Ultimately, I want parents to have choices that best suit them. The current reform cabal is not letting us choose; they're telling us, and "selling us" a load of goods, and expecting us to buy it, or else. That's just plain wrong, and they should know better.

reader said...

Seattle Citizen says: MY problem with charters is that they aren't public schools. They're some sort of mutant, depending on their charter, that gives lots of power away from the Board (elected by the citizens) and puts it into....parents? non-profit? corporate? hands.

Hey wait a minute. As it stands right now, does the board even have ANY power at all? Every ounce of supposed power that belongs to the board.... has been abandoned or neglected by them. So who has taken all the power in their absence? The power right now rests with a willy-nilly bunch of random employees... accountable to nobody. MGJ, directors that haven't left, triplicate special education directors promoted on accident, etc. The word "random" best describes the power structure of SPS. Why do you think that parents or a non-profit would somehow be worse? Don't we already have groups like the Stuart Sloan Foundation and the Gates Foundation having lots of power? Why should those 2 organizations be the only ones with influence?

If we're worried about discrimination against special ed, ELL, advanced learners... don't we already have many, many plain old public schools which deny services to those same groups? No tears about that. Plenty of existing schools have no support for them and send them to other schools already today. No, we might not want to continue that record, but surely we could make provisions in the charters to try to serve as many as possible of the hard to serve and/or expensive groups. And as to privatization... are people really getting rich on this? With such a bloated administration... with CEO compensations, I don't think it could be worse.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Excellent points, Reader.

Could it be worse? If you are talking about SPS in specific, I think it could be worse for the regular public schools. Funds would get siphoned off and poorer schools (i.e. no or small PTA) would just get poorer. I think there could be a power struggle if a charter wanted to use a building that is closed but that might be the easiest and cheapest way for a charter to start up.

For the nation? I see it as getting worse. And, it would be harder to track those failures if they weren't under a "district" umbrella.

But, what if it forced districts to do better? What if it allowed some real innovation in district with none or those who are slow or late to the party? That's a tantalizing thought

Still think it would end up being a small number of shining beacons of greatness and a lot of corporate-type charters who don't do much better.

beansa said...

So maybe we need to advocate for a well-defined process within SPS for the formation of new alternative schools? A process that would basically grant a new (or even the already established alts) a charter-like document that would allow the alternative school to use the methods and materials appropriate to whatever style of school it may be?

If Washington is holding up alt schools as the reason why we should get race to the top money in spite of our lack of charters, I don't think it's too much to ask that there be an established way to actually form an alt school - and support it's alt mission once formed.

TechyMom said...

Alternatives and magnets are under the control of local school districts. Charters are under the control of state laws. The state law gives them the ability to resist, to some extent, the requirements of NCLB.

After checking in on Berkeley Arts Magnet, a light went off in my head. It's not MGJ or anyone in seattle who is destroying our alternative schools, it's NCLB. A school with an arts focus is probably going to have lower math scores than one with, say, a STEM focus. They're probably teaching less math, and they're probably attracting students who are better at art than they are at math.

So, if NCLB is the problem, and charters are able to resist it to some extent, there are two options. Change our alts into charters, or change NCLB so that Opt-In schools are exempt from it. I would define an Opt-In school or program as one that families choose intentionally, which is never the default for a family that doesn't make a choice, and to which no one is ever madatorily assigned. Students who are unhappy with the education they're getting at such a school don't need NCLB to opt out of it, they already can opt out of it, or more acurately, not opt in. Charters are Opt-In schools, but so are alts and magnets and IB programs and immersion schools, and, and, and...

If choice is really the goal, this should be popular in the other washington. If privatizaiton and/or standardization is the goal, well, then it wouldn't be.


adhoc said...

Melissa said "Still think it would end up being a small number of shining beacons of greatness and a lot of corporate-type charters who don't do much better".

Much Better than what? What's the bar? Much better than Aki Kurose? Or much better than Eckstein?

Charters are always choice schools. If a charters performance were in the middle or average range for SPS, they might not be so attractive to families that had access to higher achieving Eckstein, however they might be a very attractive choice to families that would otherwise end up at a low performing school like Aki.

seattle citizen said...

Reader quotes me:
"MY problem with charters is that they aren't public schools. They're some sort of mutant, depending on their charter, that gives lots of power away from the Board (elected by the citizens) and puts it into....parents? non-profit? corporate? hands."
Reader responds:
"Hey wait a minute. As it stands right now, does the board even have ANY power at all?"

So if our mandate, duty, and ethical responsibility to educate our states chldren isn't being met, we should jsut end the system? Give the power and accountability to non-public entities?

So the police can't catch all the criminals, maybe they don't have good governance at a given moment (you do, police, you do! I LOVE you! Please don't pull me over!)...should we privatize our police forces?

If public health care can't meet everyone's needs (maybe because it's mismanaged...which I'm sure it's not!), should we abolish those facilities and just let the for-profits take care of the poor?

If our duly elected council members and mayor can't take care of our needs because they're busy campaigning for the next election, should we just let Microssoft govern us? After all, they have computers!

It is the public's responsibity to educate children. We are taxed heavily for this. We must NOT give up control of our public schools to ANYONE. If we aren't meeting the chidlren's needs (and I'd posit that NCLB be damned, we meet a great deal more needs than in days of yore, when SpEd students were institutionalized, black children went to segregated schools, if at all, and many children didn't progress beyond the eighth grade becaue it was off to the fields or mines with them!

Justr because some might think our public schools are not properly governed is NOT a reason to give up governing them and slough them off onto non-public entities. That would be a dramtic abrogation of our responsibilities. Maybe even illegal under constitution, and maybe even raising issues of civil rights.

reader said...

Well Melissa, how do you get "poorer" than no pta? or poorer than AKI? I mean, schools already are funded on a headcount basis. Presumably, charters wouldn't get more than the same minimum per head the ordinary public schools are getting. And, if it the charters were wildly popular, and could replace an AKI... why shouldn't we let them? Why weren't there any tears about the "New" school, or TT Minor? Was New School "siphoning" off funds? It got to use "our" buildings and "our" teachers? With all your desire for public-private partnership... why the angst about the one well defined and successful mechanism for public-private partnership? If we can't get that to work, (charters, that is) I can't imagine anything that might be better.

SC, charter schools ARE public schools. They are governed by a public CHARTER, agreed to by the board. They can absolutely and must be required to follow NCLB standards, which simply means subjecting themselves to the WASL, and disclosing results. Big deal. NCLB doesn't mandate EDM or Writer's Workshop. And, it doesn't even mandate passing. Because our public schools are obviously not properly governed is exactly the reason we need a few more choices, and a few alternatives... which all can be supervised by the board. What's the problem? If it turns out to be a wash.... so what? It wouldn't be the first one. You've gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette.

seattle citizen said...

Reader, you write:
"charter schools ARE public schools."
So, conversely, public schools are charters?

"They are governed by a public CHARTER, agreed to by the board."
But these charters exist solely to identify exceptions to Board Policy. The charters remove the charter school from whatever policies are identified in the charter. If they didn't, then of course they would be true public schools, beholden to board policy like every other true public school. The very puropose of the charter is to take power (Policy) away from the Board and give it to the charter holder.

"They can absolutely and must be required to follow NCLB standards, which simply means subjecting themselves to the WASL, and disclosing results."
So...we let the schools go their own way, sans Borad policy (which is the policy formulated by the citizens of this city, through their duly elected representatives) and instead make the locus of acountability NCLB?! Great. Yeah, let's just let the feds set ALL our policies. Why even have a local district?

"Because our public schools are obviously not properly governed is exactly the reason we need a few more choices, and a few alternatives... which all can be supervised by the board"
So the publics aren't, supposedly (what does this very broad statement mean, anyway?)properly governed (by the board) and yet the very same board will properly govern the charter distribution and the evaluation of the charter's success?
I can hear the board now: "Well, our only responsibility under the chrater, as we agreed to it, is to ensure WASL passage. We see that your sophmores passed most of their WASLs. Good job!"
That's it? You would have our publicly accountable board reduced to merely assessing whether NCLB standards were met? What about all the other policies our elected officials have in place to govern the TRUE public schools? I guess those just don't matter, eh?
Charter schools are not public schools: They are some percentage public, perhaps even down to just "Good WASL scores? Great, here's your money."
Only schools that are fully accountable to the Board Polcieis set forth by the elected Board directors are fully public. Any deviation from this makes the school less public and more private. That is an abrogation of the public responsibility and a misuse of the public tax dollar.

And really, a supposedly inept board still in charge of the charters? How does THAT make sense? Of course the answer is to make the board effective.

The rest of the answer is to support alternatives in education. Many parents and guardians want choice, many don't give a rats....behind about the WASL, our district could start all sorts of schools that followed Board Policy to a "t" and yet still offered amazing choices in curricula, outcomes, methodology, culture....they really don't all have to bow to the almighty WASL (or HSPE, now) or the almighty NCLB or the nasty and divisive and manipulative "Race for the Top."

WV suggests that districts and states that do this sort of sucking up to one, bare "assessment" tool, the HSPE, are guilty of some serious gloging. Whatever THAT means. Educational environments can be oh, so much richer and varied and yet still be publicly governed bodies still fully beholden to Board Policy.

seattle citizen said...

But Melissa might well be right: That train (charters) might well be coming. The public has been convinced that WASL scores are the be-all and end-all of education (they aren't); they have been convinced that public schools suck, generally (they don't); They have become sure of the idea that schools fail, not teachers or children (I mean, "failing school"? What the h*** does THAT mean? Are the bricks not doing thier job? Are the windows not letting in lux et veritas?) They have become convinced that "choice" for little Johnny, Jamaal, Janey and Janir would be best served by moving schools out (by various degrees) from under the public purview (the board) and into external control...

It does seem like an awful lot of people think that we might just as well do away with public education as we know it and just sucontract, or ouitsource, our joint responsibility to all children, not just our own.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Beansa, I think that's a brilliant idea that no one in the district would go for (unless you had a champion on the Board). But if we wanted quick "charters", then the district could, if it wanted, allow any alternative to draw up a charter (probably short of no teacher union but including control over curriculum) and voila! Seattle has charters.

Charters could be under the control of state laws AND districts. It all depends on how the law is written. For example, I think in NY state, the district can limit the number of charters in a year.

Okay, having no PTA is very different thing than being a poor performing school. The presence of a strong PTA can help (and usually signals parents who are likely to help more at home) but not having a PTA isn't the district's fault.

Uh, I've had a lot of angst and unhappiness over New School. Yes, they did get more. Their students, by way of the Foundation, get a$1M more than any other K-5 (and now K-7) school. That's a big deal. But no, that's not siphoning off.

But they managed to get to the head of the line and get a spanking new building in record time using overtime. That seems like a benefit most schools don't get even a charter school.

reader said...

No SC, how could you be so paranoid? Nobody said WASL was the measure of success or the measure of success of the "charter". They'd simply have the requirement to take the WASL, like everybody else under NCLB. That's simply the law. They could be exempt from union contracts, curriculum, and other stuff that gets in the way of the charter...and things we taxpayers never voted for in the first place.

You're the one who mentioned that schools were poorly managed. When the board can't set or enforce a single policy, what else would you call it? There really isn't a whole lot I can see that we, the responsible public, can do about it... especially in a timely manner.

wseadawg said...

One thing we can do about our bowing-to-whatever-the-SI-wants board is get out and campaign for better board members who aren't bought and paid for by Gates, League of Ed Voters and the BRT. The last election was a no-contest farce, due to the influence of big money and nothing else. It needs to start with campaign limits in Board races, or at least certain candidates telling us why they are getting big donations of 5 to 8 times that of their opposition.

seattle citizen said...

Reader, you write:
They [charters] could be exempt from union contracts, curriculum, and other stuff that gets in the way of the charter...and things we taxpayers never voted for in the first place."
You DID vote for them: You voted for the directors of YOUR school board. This is how democracy works. Should we get rid of things our senators and congresspeople did just because we didn't vote for those things? Whaddya want, to vote on every dang policy?

You continue:
"You're the one who mentioned that schools were poorly managed."
When did I say this? I see SOME schools that might be managed better (by the district...as agent of the board), and I see SOME aspects of district management I'd change...if I were the Big Kahuna, but I NEVER said "schools 9generally) were poorly managed, and if they were, the answer is certainly not to sell them off, but to manage them better. District manages schools, board manages district, you manage the board.

"When the board can't set or enforce a single policy, what else would you call it?"
But they DO set and enforce policy, good ones like C54.00, which desrcribes the district's support for alternative schools, which, when fully realized, will provide schools much like the suposedly so wonderful charters.

The board sets and enforces scads of other polcies. Not ALL are enforced, and this is a problem, but would the answer is not to do away with policy (throuch charters) but to enforce it.

"There really isn't a whole lot I can see that we, the responsible public, can do about it... especially in a timely manner."

There's plenty to do, it just isn't done: Vote. Listen to candidates instead of their well-funded advertisments. Become knowledgeable about research and pedagogy. Go to board meetings. Go to schools. March in the streets (I'm serious).

But to throw up our hands and say, "to heck with it! Let's stop educated students (by reducing our responsibility by chartering away board policy) is just wrong.

WV "joked" about this once and also heard from me...at length...in detail...ad nauseum...a infinitum...ad astra etc non sequitor!

lux et veritas,

reader said...

There's plenty to do, it just isn't done: Vote. Listen to candidates instead of their well-funded advertisments. Become knowledgeable about research and pedagogy. Go to board meetings. Go to schools. March in the streets (I'm serious).

Why is it that you assume people haven't done those things already? They have, I have, it hasn't done much. If the board never met again, I don't think it would make any difference at all. At least charters have a more direct impact on students, on the ground, than a bunch of board members setting policy... and then never enforcing them. I'm glad you like your pet policy, but really, are they going to follow it? They're just going to have a review, pick the things they were going to do anyway, claim they are following it, and declare victory. I assure you, that review will not impact their alt school decision (nor will a policy) even 1 tiny bit.

Sahila said...


August 25 2009 report on NPR about charter school enrolment difficulties in DC...

dj said...

Perhaps this is a stupid question, but why, if we want educational diversity and innovation, would we need charters? We have non-standard programs such as Montessori programs, language immersion schools, and TOPS that have lengthy waitlists of families that want access to something that they cannot access.

Why not respond, through the public schools, to what you can prove through data that families want?

reader said...

Those programs generally do not serve that many students in the "at risk" category... generally speaking, they're more of an out for the middle to affluent families that do not wish circulation in the schools and programs they would otherwise be assigned to. That is, they don't target the groups or the acheivement gap that the federal government is looking to improve. Providing another choice for middle class families isn't really the goal of the federal government's mission, though it may be what others are looking for. Look at the Montessori at Graham Hill.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader, could you clarify what this means?

"...affluent families that do not wish circulation in the schools and programs they would otherwise be assigned to"

TechyMom said...

TOPS, ORCA, and AS1 have a fair number of FRE kids and are quite diverse. The same was true of Summit. And then there's AAA, which was explicitly targeting "groups or the acheivement gap that the federal government is looking to improve," though you could argue not all that successfully (but is KIPP really better with its 60% dropout rate?)

These programs are open to anyone who signs up based on lottery, just like charters. It's always going to be true that when you have an optional program, the kids who most need help are the ones whose parents who don't care, and those parents just aren't going to apply. It's true of charters too.

I just don't see that charters do a better job of reaching the most needy kids than alts do. They have a lot of the same plusses and minuses, because they both rely on parents bothering to sign their kids up. Not sure how to fix that problem... I certainly wouldn't advocate mandatory assignment to KIPP or to a 'dumb school.'

reader said...

Look at the Graham Hill montessori, GH is basically a whole segregated school along racial and class lines. So segregated that the montessori couldn't be teased out and saved in the closure process... for exactly that reason. OK cool. Lots of things turn out that way. But let's not pretend having a montessori is something that will improve our achievement gap, or that it is what the federal govt is trying to achieve with the charters. TOPs may roughly match the racial demographics of the district, but it doesn't really serve "at risk". It serves half the level of kids in poverty that the district as a whole serves. And it still has an achievement gap. That is specifically NOT serving the kids we'd like to target with charters. Good education for some, sure... serving "at risk" or underserved particularly much...uh, no. Salmon Bay, Nova, Center School and Stanford underserves poor kids by a huge margin, Orcas... underserves by a small margin, Pathfinder... OK, it serves the average number. Beacon Hill may be the 1 exception to the rule...but that's only been going for a year. I bet after a few years they're going to be in the underserving club too... but the jury's still out. Bottom line is that these schools, while good, aren't doing what charters are doing (or, are supposed to be doing) They're simply good options for middle class people.

And, the schools that do kinda break the mold... well, those are the ones being chopped, or not really demonstrating much academic success in any way that the rest of us can understand... TT Minor (being chopped), AS1 (looks like it's being chopped... and was it doing well for anybody academically anyway???? hard to know).

dj said...

My daughter was in the T.T. Minor Montessori program and it was majority free lunch and majority minority (and there was plenty of room in the non-Montessori classrooms for parents who didn't want it). I don't buy that a Montessori program is just some sop to the affluent and I've not seen data that persuade me that charters close achievement gaps.

What I do think is that having schools that are 85% FRE is a bad idea no matter what program you put in the building, whether it's a charter program, a traditional school, or a nontraditional school.

dj said...

Oh, and as for T.T. Minor "being chopped" -- I'm not sure what that has to do with anything. There were two Montessori classes in the whole school.

Sahila said...

Reader said:
That is specifically NOT serving the kids WE'D like to target with charters.

Reader - you use the plural, we... rather than the personal I...

Is that the royal 'we' or are your comments representing the views of a group of people?

Its not a fair assumption to use the plural 'we' if you are talking about the contributors/posters to the blog... I certainly dont support charters for ANY population/demographic...

So, in the interests of transparency and disclosure, who is the 'we' you are speaking for?

TechyMom said...

Do charters serve more at risk kids than non-charter choice schools? If so, why? What are they doing to recruit those families, and why don't/can't alt schools do the same? Do they have better results with at risk kids, or do they just recruit kids who fit a demographic but weren't really at risk in the first place due to family involvement? Do they just flunk out kids who would make their numbers look bad? Is that the difference in 'outcome' between KIPP and Madrona?

Oh, and I've heard Obama (who went to private school) talk about innovative approaches. That's certainly what he's chosen for his own kids. Are you sure this us all about the achievement gap, and not about middle class voters? I'm not.

seattle citizen said...

Techymom asks:
"Do charters serve more at risk kids than non-charter choice schools? If so, why? What are they doing to recruit those families?"

Me personally, I would suggest the following scenario (if you don't like rants, stop reading now!):
1) a desire to break unions;
2) a desire to privatize public assets;
3) a poor, undereducated, unparticipatory population, eager for the best for their children;
4) a bizarre reduction, at the government level, in the media, and in modern edu-think-tanks, of the outcomes of education from rich and broad education to mere Reading, Writing and Math;
5) the use of that diminished list of outcomes, printed on a few lines of spreadsheet, to point at whole schools (whole schools!) as "bad";(I mean, seriously: Who has looked at the "data" on the typical WASL spreadsheet around schools? School "fails" 13% of students in Writing...What? What does that mean? Where's the other data, the classroom assessments, the information about student attitude, etc? And how come they're grouping unique little kids into little b oxes called "Black, White, Asian...etc" and acting as if kids were just merely that? It is the slimmest amount of data, with very little disaggregation, one could imagine!)
6) undereducated (mainly poorer) parents (an irony given the publicity given the "achievement gap") buy the pap sent down from above that says, your schools (whole schools! Not just individual teachers in a school!) suck and here's how to fix it, how to get those WASL scores up (in Reading, Writing and Math...forget history! Forget art! Forget civics!)
People in the community are only shown "WASL" percentages for schools, and somehow told to believe that this actually represents the whole school's purpose and performance! "Yes," we are told, "PS 10 has FAILED Reading by 47%, Writing by 38% and Math by 63%" What does this MEAN? No one knows. Where's the disaggregation? Nt shown that, nuh uh. Where's History? On the history channel. Where's Civics? Court TV. The means to convince people that "schools" (whole schools!) "fail" is data an inch deep with very little nuance. Here's one for ya: Say a school tests one bunch of tenth-graders, and they get 64%. The next year, they test ANOTHER bunch, and THAT group gets 63%. The way they'd have us believe it, the school failed, because WASL scores dropped, dropped I tell you! Yet there were TWO DIFFERENT COHORTS, who came into the school with two different sets of knowledge! Unbelievable that anyone thinks this is somehow meaningful yet under NCLB, five years of this gets you restructured...wow.
7) Since whole schools now "suck," and teachers, apparently, are money-grubbing dinosaurs who aren't with the program, we won't reform districts, we'll just cut lose whole schools. We'll let charters teach Reading, Writing and Math.
8) Parents, convinced that WASL rates over time for whole schools mean something, agree to give up the public mandate to educate and hand the thing over to some charter that volunteers to do right.
So we have schools turned into charters, many of which are little "Read-Write-Math" factories, somehow educating our chidlren for less than publics do while making a profit, to boot. How, you ask? BY cuting corners, teaching less, giving the boot to "trouble," and generally acting like they want to make a profit (or at least continue in their plush management positions as "educators" hiring the next warm bodies off the line to stand and deliver scripted lessons. Forget nuance, forget choice, forget inquiry...Write, Read and Calculate!

seattle citizen said...

Conisder this, when asking how charters "recruit":

Ballard High School, this year, is now in Step Three of AYP.
This means that for three years in a row they have "failed" to show progress (not just stay even!) in just ONE of 23 categories.
Ballard High School.

Two more years of this, and they might be in Step Five, which, under NCLB, requires restructuring of the school.

Since Ballard HS does not receive Title One funding, they WON'T be restructured - only those that get Title One coe under this big, big gun.

So the schools that educate the poorer, more disadvantaged students can be torn apart, but Ballard, with a wealthier population, won't.

Charters (or at least the predatory kind I'm talking about) target impoverished, uneducated, basically unknowing populations. It would be a rare bird that would report in the Times that "Ballard High School is failing!" yet we hear this about other, poorer schools every day.

Wealthier people, more educated people, probably wouldn't fall for the "this year's students did worse than last years students so the school must be restructured, you chidlren can come to THIS new [charter] school!" crap. They would stay in the wealthier, unrestructured public, or go private.

Look at a lot of the charters touted as being so great: Do you see Bill and Melinda sending their children to to them? Do you see the sons and daughters of the middle class? The upper class? Of course not. Which schools did LA target for removal? Odds are the vasat majority are supposedly "failing" schools (as if a school can fail: it's the staff, it's society, it's the kids suffering the failure of the staff and society...Whole schools don't fail: EVERY school has successful teachers, successful students...

But if they're poor, they've "failed", and we shoudl jsut remove that population from the pblics (and, not incidentally, abolish the union and open up some healthy profit margins)

reader said...

Well DJ, you're probably right we don't want schools serving 85% FRL. But we don't want to create special "alternatives" which systematically underserve FRL either, by accident or design. That leaves regular public schools with more FRL. (the point) And, that is what our "alternatives" seem to do for the most part... especially problematic if the alternatives maintains the same achievement gap as all other schools.

And no SC, Bill Gates' and Obama's kids aren't going to any charter... but they have infinitely many choices... Right now, there already is NO choice for middle schools... So some choice, a charter may be a better CHOICE than AKI, if you aren't Bill Gates or Barack Obama. You seem to have the idea that people are being forced into charters. That isn't the proposal at all. Or, are you saying poor people are too stupid to say no to a bad choice... too stupid to say no to a charter that was bad somehow?

seattle citizen said...

No, Reader, I never called anyone "stupid." What I wrote was that many people are being convinced that the end goal of eductation are the three Rs; that WASL scores, as reported by SCHOOL, somehow represent the teaching going on in the school, generally; that ALL teachers in a school are bad ("failing school"); that it's somehow a good thing to move schools out from teh oversight and acountability of public boards; that provate or "non-profit" organizations can do a "better" job of educating...

The whole system of "accountability" as it stands now is built on a number of fallacies:
1) WASL Scores for schools over time somehow give an accurate picture of what actually happens in individual classrooms
2) there are only three areas of outcomes to assess (Read, Write, Math)
3) Only Title One (poorer) schools should come under the onus of AYP restructuing (because, I guess, there are no struggling individual students in non-Title One schools)
4) "failing" schools (those that serve the poor, the disenfranchised, should be closed, rather than address "failing" teachers and "failing" individual students...

Looki at how much attention is paid in the media to WASL reports that address whole schools, rather than individual students. Even more ridiculously, these reports over time don't make the least bit of sense:
Say a school gives one batch of tenth-graders the WASL. They get 70%, as a school, pass rate. The next year, with an entirely new batch of students, they get only 68%. Never mind that programs changed, that they now have a bunch of students who are, for instance, poorer, maybe come from less educated households...These are factors outside the controlo of the school and yet the school is classified as "failing" because the WASL scores dropped.

The whole system is predicated on idntifying a whole school as this or that, using faulty data, when of course the problem lies with individual teachers and students. Evaluate the teachers and address the needs of individual students, don't use a federal bludgeon to dclare schools "failing" and then restructure them, perhaps outsource them!

The incredible crime thsat results is that poorer children, whether in a charter or in a "restructured" school will suffer even more. Instead of addressing the individual teachers, those that are not doing well, the whole school is drastically changed, damaging continuity, disrupting already fragile lives. Instead of making teaching better, education nis reduced to three general categories of assessment, forcing these schools (and, peripherally, high-performing schools) to "teach to the test" instead of teaching broad and deep curricula, full of enrichment and opportuniy. Instead of serving the struggling students, it lessens their opportunity even more as it continually disrupts their education.

All of this predicated on nonsensically oversimplified and erroneous "data" that precludes deep and meaningful assessments, formative assessments, that actually DO something.

Lastly, the whole "achievement gap" idea is predicated on the idea that we can look at children merely as members of this group, or that group. Ever seen the categories used to report WASL scores? "Black, Asian, White, Free/Reduced Lunch..." Of COURSE children aren't just these things, but that's how its reported, and that's how it's acted upon! It's insane! Talk about perpetuating racism: "You! You're JUST Black!" What about all the white/asian/black kid? What about the the wealthy native american? What about the kid who is beaten a thome? What about the kid who gets gobs of enrichment?

It doesn't matter, that stuff isn't looked at in the "data" If we were truly data-driven, we would throw these categories in the trash and look at each child's unique circumstance, we would look at each teacher's individual successes with each child (and how they do it), we would look at things that are helpful instead of disasterously harmful and retrograde.

seattle citizen said...

WASL Fun Facts:
"0"s are counted. If a student doesn't take the test, it counts against the school. It's the schools' fault the student skipped or rebelled or whatever. Failing school!

"Black" category includes both African Americans and immigrant Africans! Because of course "they" all have the same issues, the same levels of education...

A "white" child can check the "black" box and vice versa. There goes your statistical relevance. The son of a Scots/Irish and a Cambodian/Peruvian can check "Native American." Most importantly, a poor person can be "white," a wealthy person can be "black."

Some WASL takers just push keys. Some overslept. Some froze. Some are starving. None of them are the same students who took the test the year before (for AYP purposes).

The pilot math WASL had a sick joke about Mary Kay LeTournou in one of its questions.

And yet we allow these tests to be the sole arbiter of school success.


And now we allow the feds to mandate charters and merit pay as the way to get federal funds, becaue these test scores are used to declare entire schools (not the teachers and students) as "failing"!


seattle citizen said...

Reader, you want choice? Make the public schools offer it. Many parents are happy with publics: Thgey might not be the "choice" they want (or can afford) but these parents support the idea of public schools. They send their kid to a school that might not be perfect, but it's public.

Want more choice in the system? Pay for transportation and support the growth of magnets, alternatives, etc in the public schools. Do you really think we have to give up on publics by going to charters in order to fister "choice"? Not true

adhoc said...

The move toward accountability (WASL, and teaching to the three areas (reading, writing and math), may be exactly why a liberal or performing arts charter, Waldorf charter etc might be very well received here in Seattle. Especially if MGJ continues to standardize curriculum, until our kids are drones.

Choice CAN be good.

And Reader, FYI, I wouldn't argue much with SC about Charters. You are wasting your time. He adamantly refuses to consider any perspective other than his own. And he just repeats himself over and over again. So it's futile.

And SC does not have a child in SPS so I don't think he understands the stress and struggle that we who do have children sometimes feel.

seattle citizen said...

Dear adhoc,
How do I refuse to accept perspectives other than my own? Yes, my perspective on charters is adamant, as I believe it is a dilution of the public mandate. So what? Prove me wrong, show me the errors of my ways.

All I do is repeat myself over and over? BS. And, I might add, we sometimes have the same discussions over and over, so what? Reader is adamantly in favor of charters, I'm not. So we repeat points, sometimes...so what? Don't respond, then. Whatever.

What kind of comment is "SC doen't have child in SPS"?! Our superintendent didn't, either, until this year. Many don't. What do you mean I don't understand what parents feel, their stress? What a crock! Of course I do. Parents want what's best for their children. I just hope they want what's best for ALL children, too.

I'll keep posting stuff that might be repetitive, might be occasionally a rant as I vent frustration, might occasioanlly be kudos to jobs well done...you can read my posts or not, adhoc, I'm not that interested in what you do, after your numerous snide comments directed at me. I'm not interested in getting into a pissing fight with you: what's point?

But I WILL address your comment about charters being "what we need" for choice: Many poorer people don't have the choices, and might get charters whether they want them or not, conned into believing that which is not true (WASL = ALL) Many middle class and wealthier families can create choice by expanding (or at least stopping the contracxtion of) choices in the public schools. Don't like what Dr G-J is doing? Challenge it. Or bail out of the publics, that's a choice.

seattle citizen said...

And Adhoc, it's funny that your comment starts with following MY comments about WASL, actually continuing the discussion, then goes on to say how evidently BAD I am. You follow my comment to make YOUR suggestion about WASLs, their standardization, how they might make parents welcome liberal arts, Waldorf model charters, but thenin effect, chew me out!
That's funny.

Oh, and here's some of your "repetitive" comments from previous threads:
"Families may see charters as their only escape. Families who didn't like the standard school model used to be able to choose an alternative school [june 22nd]

And here's one that isn't repetitive, but correlates (guess you've changed your mind about charters - glad you aren't "adamant" about anything!):
"As I learn more and more, I continue to revise my views on charter schools. I am really uncomfortable with their lack of accountability, lack of certified teachers, ability to make a profit, etc. So in general, and currently, I would classify myself as anti charter schools. [March 20]"

And here you discuss Waldorf in collaboration with SPS (not as a charter):
If a group of parents proposed a new alt school today, and the proposal included placing it in an area of the city that needed more capacity I wonder if they would consider it?

As for the Waldorf model - a group did bring the district a proposal for a Waldorf k-8 some 7 or 8 years ago when the district began looking into adding new programs such as Montessori and immersion. The Waldorf community was very excited about the proposal, and the district seriously considered it, but I'm not sure what happened with it or why it never came about? It might be worth investigating [2/27]

etc etc....

Glad to see you have an open mind. So do I: There's many instances where I've listened and actually changed my mind. I have NOT changed my mind about charters. The more I learn, the more I've studied this issue, the more I've come to believe that they diffuse public responsibility and accountability. This R and A might not be present in the present district (is it ever? in large social service?) but that does NOT mean that it's wise public policy to lessen the public's responsibility and give it to some unknown, unaccountable (perhaps, dempending on t he charter) entity.
It's great that parents and others DO want to create and offer choice schools, cool alternatives of all sorts, but most, I'd bet it's 90% of charter schools in operation or under consderation are geared towards re-entry style schools, they are not geared towards the sorts of alternative we have here in Seattle.
Either way, they take some of the responsibility and accountsability away from the public (exemption from policy) and I don't like it. One bit. Do there.

Sahila said...

Seattle Citizen... for the little its worth, I'd like to say thank you for your perseverance in restating the case over and over again why we should be on our guard against charter schools, which really is the privatisation of education in this country...

People here seem to be unable to connect the dots, to see what is going on in the big picture, right under their very noses...

As I commented on a Kitsap Sun blog piece on education:

Unfortunately, charter schools do not give children a better education…

See: http://seattle-ed.blogspot.com/ for a huge amount of information about charters and the current school reform process being pushed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and lobbying groups such as the Broad, Gates and Stuart Foundations…

Recent studies by pro-charter organisations reveal that only 17% of charter schools do a better job of educating children than public schools…

Many charter schools ‘teach to the test’, pick and choose which children to accept for enrolment, expel children who arent achieving, hire and then abuse under-qualified non-union teachers … all this while siphoning off money from the public education system and expecting the public school system to pick up the pieces when they fail - which many, many do…

“Race for the Top” is about privatising public education - turning it into a ‘for profit’ corporate business model that will reap huge benefits for some very large companies… as in all things, if you want to really know what’s going on “follow the money”… see who the loudest and most influential voices calling for change are, track back to their other activities and you’ll notice that they arent at all disinterested parties - they have a vested interest in changing the face of public education and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the welfare of our children…

We have big business influencing and profiting from our military activities - Halliburton etc; we have big business (insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals etc) pushing against health care reform because they know their profits will be cut; now we have big business trying to influence and push public education - worth billions of dollars in profit - into the private sector…

Dont let the rhetoric fool you… check out Duncan’s failed reforms in Chicago, follow the money and then decide for yourself if this is what you want for our kids…

And I have to say that I find adhoc's stance changes from time to time... h/she and I had a run in about AS#1 - s/he advocated for its closure because it was a failing school with appalling WASL scores - s/he's opinion...

A few months later, adhoc changed his/her mind and began advocating for the preservation of AS#1... how the school was doing wonderfully well considering the challenges it faced from the population it served....

I notice that Reader still hasnt revealed who she refers to/represents with the "we" pronoun in her writings...

Anyway... I wanted to say thank you and to encourage you to continue... I have some other issues taking priority right now and need to focus on them, but will be back soon, I think... and am still involved in an anti-closure law suit...

Oh, and I took my son and my tax dollars to Room Nine Community (public alternative a la Thornton Creek) School in Shoreline... I was fighting hard to stop certain changes being imposed on AS#1 as well as this District-level stuff and couldnt deal with conflict on two fronts, especially where my son might be treated negatively because of my activism...


seattle citizen said...

Thanks, Sahila.

Some non-public schools might indeed give a "better" education in some ways. That's fine. I just don't want public schools to be made private in any way (aside from the cool technology, where appropriate, and the profit booksellers make from selling schools class sets of Fahrenheit 451...

adhoc said...

Sahila said "Unfortunately, charter schools do not give children a better education…"

So, I must ask, again.....better than what? Better than Montlake? Or better than West Seattle Elementary?

A charter school in Seattle may not give kids a better education than Bryant does, or View Ridge does, or McGilvra does, or Montlake or TOPS does. But would a charter give kids a better education than say West Seattle elementary, Dearborn Park, Dunlap, Hawthorne, Gatzert, Leschi, Aki or Madrona does?

If a charter school performed in the middle (average) range for SPS it would offer kids from our many low performing schools a far superior option.

Ans, SC, as for fighting to better our SPS schools, well, many of us do that, consistently. But those of us that have kids in SPS know all to well that our kids just don't have time to wait. Their time for education is now, and change comes very very slowly, if at all, in SPS. Sorry, our kids can't wait.

Still, I'm not pro charter (yet). Just playing devils advocate and trying to look at all sides of the charter issues/debate. Seattle Schools are so diverse and the disparity is so great that depending on where you live in Seattle and what schools you have access to charters may be a wretched choice, or they may be your savior.

The fact is that SPS has failed miserably to close the achievement gap. They fail miserable with low income students. They are NOT providing the support and services that these students need and deserve. If you were in their shoes you might just be praying for charter schools to come to Seattle.

seattle citizen said...

"If you were in their shoes you might just be praying for charter schools to come to Seattle."

No, I'd be praying for my parent/guardians to vote in board members that believed in public schools and marched in the streets until they got good ones.

Also, if I were an excellent student in West Seattle elementary, Dearborn Park, Dunlap, Hawthorne, Gatzert, Leschi, Aki or Madrona, I'd be wondering why you are dissing me, and on what you base your rationale for including me in your list of supposedly "failing" schools. Is this list gathered from WASL statistics, I'd ask?

seattle citizen said...

"The fact is that SPS has failed miserably to close the achievement gap. They fail miserable with low income students. They are NOT providing the support and services that these students need and deserve"

I think that SPS HAS been instituting some very intriguing new programs that do just this: MAP could, RtI could, Differentiation could...See my post on this over in one of those butterfly and bambi threads.

But...What IS the achievement gap? (actually, I call it the "opportunity gap": students aren't not achieving; they aren't getting opportunities to achive)

It has become a statistical bludgeon. "47% of Aki's black children aren't achieving," we hear (whatver the figure/school is)

What is a "black" child?
What is the measure of achievement?
Are remediations being targeted at whole groups of kids based on the checkmark in the little box? Is the "black" (African immigrant? African American? Son of an African and a "white" woman?)"A" student getting crappy WASL prep instead of deep and thoughtful education? No wonder THAT student isn't achieving. Is the whole school being shoved this way and that in effort to change the acheivement gap, when in reality all that is needed are interventions targeted at INDIVIDUALs, who are not just Black or low income, etc, but are many things...
And the other thing needed is for SOCIETY to close ITS opportunity gap. It's inarguable that a student who grows up in an educated, wealthier family is likely to have more opporunities outside of school. It's inarguable that there's still racism and classism. It's inarguable that some students come to school hungry, some homeless (or effectively so)
Target thos, along with individually targeted interventions, and THEN you have some movement forward on the "achievement" gap.

TechyMom said...

"Unfortunately, charter schools do not give children a better education…"

I just need to chime in and remind everyone that the measurement used to determine that charter schools didn't give a better education was scores on standardized tests of reading and math. It's just not a valid measure. We don't know one way or another whether charters are, on the whole, better, worse, or the same as other public schools.

Not an argument for or against (I'm still on the fence), but we do need to keep in mind that the so-called data doesn't prove anything.

seattle citizen said...

True, techymom...and since even the standardized tests vary from state to state (! they're used comparitavily by NCLB !?!), then saying that the standardized trest score of some student in NYC is better than the public test score of some student in WA wouyld be equally ridiculous.

It's incomprehensible to me that the feds allow each state to design their own tests, then somehow compare these results nationally. Wowzers. A bigger kick can be had by looking at a) how much standardized trests flucuate over time; b) how some schools that might typically be considered "high performing" but the citizens can have falling WASL scores even thought they've been teaching more to the test and identifying WASL target student...weird! and c) how some state's standardized tests seem to trend up, even when nationally used tests like NEAP flatline in the same state. Go figure.

At any rate, this rigamarol is being used to tell the public schools (whole schools!) "fail" and convince the public to lose the public schools in favor of something more profitable, uh, helpful. That, and perhaps it's best to have an undereducated segment of the population ("I know Reading, Writing and Math!") because the economy certainly can't afford to pay everyone what it pays the more highly educated...

WV, employing that cute baby talk it uses sometimes, suggests that what I say is prettru.

adhoc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adhoc said...

SC, you were lucky enough to go to good schools. If I recall correctly you described how your parents moved to neighborhoods to get you into "good" schools. Most SPS families can't afford to move. Those families are stuck with, well, not the "good" schools. And, I'm not talking strictly about WASL scores now. I'm talking about schools that don't have a PTA, or fund raising, or parent volunteers. Schools that are plagued with poverty, gangs, drugs, and violence. Schools where girls get raped in the restroom and administration doesn't report it. Schools where a majority of students are unmotivated, truants, and drop out. Schools that don't offer PE, art, music or recess so they can have extra time for math and reading (ironically the same exact complaint many use against charters).

For families stuck in these schools any better option is welcome.

SC, I believe that you speak from an educated, philosophical, point of view, but have no real experience of your own having gone to great schools and a well respected liberal arts college.

If your child was stuck in one of these "bad" schools, and you marched and marched, and fought and fought for better schools, all in vain (as many of us have done, and continue to do) and your kids years kept wasting away in that "bad" school you might think differently. It's easy for you to say "fight for change", but when that change doesn't come and your kid is stuck what do you do? Not a rhetorical question, seriously, what do you do?

And BTW, just for curiosity sake what did your parents use as a measure to judge a "good" school? No WASL back then. Did they use socio economics? Ethnic make up?

Mary said...

I don't think I would have any problem with charter schools as long as they couldn't turn any student away. And as long as they couldn't expel any student without going through the same due process that public schools adhere to. But I guess if they had to follow those guidelines, then they'd be public schools. Instead of private schools using public money.

Really, private schools should be outlawed. Then we'd see some money poured into public education pretty quickly. Then every school could be a charter school, with no one turned away and equal education for all. Small class sizes, tons of enrichment, social support for those who need it.

Okay, I'm dreaming again.

As it stands, charter schools appear to me to be a way to get an average student out of a bad school, leaving only the bad students in the bad schools. And how do we define "bad" students? This is classism, racism, whatever you want to call it. The rich are already in private schools. Now the middle class want their own version. No one wants to sacrifice their kids to an ideal, so they want out of what they perceive to be the bottom. Leave the lowest of the low where they belong -- in public schools.

Sad. For everyone.

seattle citizen said...

Adhoc, the whole city is plagued with the horrors you describe. It isn't the schools' fault.

I repeat: Schools are bricks and piping. It's the people in them that teach and learn.

All the schools you list have some very good educators in them. They have some very smart students who learn every day. To call the "school" a failure is just plain wrong. The communities they sit are largely to blame, and that includes ALL communities. Ballard HS had a student killed in a drive-by shooting not so long ago...

Your continued comments about me are...presumptuous, to say the least: I "have no real experience of [my] own having gone to great schools and a well respected liberal arts college"?

I've spent years in Seattle Public Schools, much of which was in schools that had forced upon them students suffering enormous turmoil, enormous disconnect, enormous dnager in the community. The BEST schools that have in them staff (and other students) that take in these children, these hurt and bleeding youth, and first offer them safety (the crimes you mention happen everywhere, but schoolos are by far the safest buildings in the city) THEN try to bring them up to level in their educations, which are lacking, to say the least.

How DARE you presume to say I have little experience? I've spent a thousand times more time in Seattle Schools than you ever will.

MY parents moved to a town to get a good school system in the early '60s. They realized their error quickly, and have come to agree with me that one sticks it out, stays and effects change.

The schools, all of them, are nowhere near as bad as you makie them out to be. You have no data, no observations, no EXPERIENCE to bemoan the state of the schools you constantly lament.

There are troubles: There are troubles everywhere. There are poor children at Roosevelt. There are students suffering racism at Eckstein. There are children who are abused by their parents at Greenlake.

There are bad educators everywhere, slackers, mean people, just as there are in any profession. There are tired educators, too, tired of fighting TWO battles: One to teach injured children and one to fend off or report flawed data to the numerous outside stakeholders all insisting on change, on "best practice" du jure, on making the educators do just one more thing, learn one more strategy (that Arne Duncan says is good, and he knows!)

Fix students. Fix educators. Fixing "schools" is damaging: it implies that the whole building, no, the whole system is fatally flawed when really it's just some of the people inside struggling.

My parents moved, and regretted it. Yes, some parents CAN'T move: They're stuck where they are (until they can't make rent) So you would offer to "fix" their school by making it less beholden to the public district. You would trust that some other agency will come in and "fix" the supposedly broken school....I don't trust that to happen, but I DO trust the citizens of this city to keep struggling for their children in public schools.

School is largely what you make it. Students will have bad teachers, just as they will have bad bosses or bad co-workers or bad friends or bad families. Not to say we shouldn't fix those situations, but children are resilent; they'll roll through if they're supported, if they're encouraged, if they have some spark and are given hope.

I don't want to give up that hope. Selling the children to a private contractor, uh, charter is giving up hope for the promise of the publics. Parents might have to stay in a neighborhood with more than the usual amount of "bad" teachers (whatever one means by that.) But the school, that building down the street, is one of the safest places on earth, and has many caring people in it, each with their own lesson to teach, students and teachers alike. It might not be the "$ucce$$ model everyone seems to be talking about, but it's better: it's compassionate, literate, open, accepting and it's ours.

seattle citizen said...

Mary, you're close in your analysis. In my opinion, (generally) the rich have privates, the middle class want alternative (or choice) and the poor are getting WASL prep charters.

Most of the charters discussed nationally exist, or are planned, to "serve" poor children, children of color, disenfranchized children.

As you might have read in this thread and others, I think some parents want out of publics because they don't beleive publics are capable of "choice" anymore (partly because they see the WASL game for what it is); some parents want out of publics because they have been convinced that ALL blacks, ALL low ses (socio-economic) children are "failing," that ALL innericty schools are failing...additonally, the less-connected parent/guardians see the WASL as the one place where their child can "compete" with all those more connected children: After years of unfair playing fields, they see a place where their kid can get a number just as high as the next kid's. So THESE parent/guardians are being sold what we might call "re-entry" chraters, WASL factories, unbeholden to board policy, often half-funded by other interests (corporations, for instance, such as Aren Duncan's Ariel Academy in Chicago: In the 1990s' he ran the Ariel Education Initiative, a "division" of the Ariel Investment Corporation. This spun-off non-profit ran a school (okay they didn't run it: They gave almost a million dollars to it; chicago public schools gave two million, so AEI had a 1/3 interst. They made it an investor's training center, basically. You can argue that the 97% black demographic of that K-8 school could benefit from an education in stock markets, but do we want investment companies teaching our children? Do we want the poorest children to have their education paid for by someone else, perhaps someone who has a corporate agenda? I wonder if they teach about any of teh benefits of socialist organizaiton in that school? I wonder if they recognize their debt to the public system? I wonder....but who will know, it's only 2/3 public...

So the poor would get charters, too, perhaps WASL prep academies...meanwhile, the public district would lose.

adhoc said...

"I've spent years in Seattle Public Schools, much of which was in schools that had forced upon them students suffering enormous turmoil, enormous disconnect, enormous dnager in the community."

Your work as a teacher is commendable, even more so given the population that you worked with. But what did SPS do with your school? That school that served the most at risk students of our district? They closed it. They didn't care that they further disenfranchised the very at risk students that they were supposed to be serving/supporting.

SPS fails our most at risk students time and time and time again.

These kids don't have the time to wait until SPS, the school board, and you figure it all out. There time is now. And, if a charter needs to step in and clean up SPS's mess then so be it.

adhoc said...

"To call the "school" a failure is just plain wrong. The communities they sit are largely to blame"

To put all the blame on the community and none on what is happening inside the walls of the school is what I call "passing the buck". I can see why, as a teacher, one would say such a thing, but I'm just not buying it.

Some of our schools that serve our most vulnerable and at risk students do a very good job - without any extra funding or support (take a look at Maple Elementary). Other schools, serving the same population (demographics), fail their students miserably.

I believe a lot has to do with the the leadership in the school, the culture of the school, and expectations and accountability within the school.

If this district closed the schools that are chronically under perform (and thus are chronically under enrolled), and replaced them with new staff and leadership. A new vision. And held them accountable to perform, then we may never ever need charters.

But as long as this district continues to turn the other cheek, and let some schools limp along, year after year after year, they should be aware - The public will look for better options. One of those options may be charters.

Mary said...

adhoc -- which school would you like to compare with Maple? Maple serves a lot of low income families, but it has a very high population of Asian immigrants who are extremely supportive of the teachers and of education in general.

seattle citizen said...

"But what did SPS do with your school? That school that served the most at risk students of our district? They closed it. They didn't care that they further disenfranchised the very at risk students that they were supposed to be serving/supporting."
Ya know, I fought that long and hard, and I'm proud of that. I stuck by the students, and worked with the district to ensure review and to ensure that there was something else put in place. The district IS reconfiguring "safety net" services. The district looked at my school and saw what I sometimes saw: That isolated room at the end of the hall to which we unfortunately shuffle off the "trouble" so we don't have to address the needs of ALL students in the traditional sending schools (the school the kid was suspended from, or left when they got pregnant, or were expelled from etc)
The idea is to meet the needs of students BEFORE they end up sent down the dark hall. Hence, Response to Intervention. Hence, differentiation, Hence, Performance Management with targeted interventions. I'm not saying everything came out peachy keen: The tendancy is, perhaps endemically, to focus on the good (butterflies! High achievement!) and sort of refuse to admit the bad (No trouble in MY school, cries the principal! WASL scores are up!) But the district, to its credit, DID see a problem (scattered and relatively unaccountable remediation programs) and moved to reformulate those services. If it had the active support of the citizenry in this effort (rallying whole communities, for instance) it would be much more successful much more quickly.

"if a charter needs to step in and clean up SPS's mess then so be it." Just like that, eh? Give up. Walk away. Let someone else fix things. Diminish the commonwealth because it can be "better" manageed by NGOs and business. What a shame THAT would be, it's easier to give up democracy than it is to build it....
"Other schools, serving the same population (demographics), fail their students miserably." No, as you continue below, SOME people in some schools fail miserably, students, principals, children...The children ""fail" (and we HAVE to address by what measure we judge this) because they have had ineffective teachers or principles, they have had ineffective curricula (WASL prep 24/7, for instance, and the external distractions that lead to Maddi, that Spokane girl being brought to tears by her principal)

"I believe a lot has to do with the the leadership in the school, the culture of the school, and expectations and accountability within the school." Well, there you have it. 'Tis true.

"If this district closed the schools that are chronically under perform (and thus are chronically under enrolled), and replaced them with new staff and leadership. A new vision. And held them accountable to perform, then we may never ever need charters." Uh, sort of what it did with Marshall? Yes, a crappy time for all, but the district wanted (among other things) to revamp the safety net system. It might not be %100 now, but that's the idea. Now, accountability is to be had when the public, the "owners" of thse schools, this district, demand it (and not through these almost meaningless WASL scoresheets we see in the media: WASL MIGHT lead to interesting formative assessment (and summative) but only when it is MUCH MORE deeply analyzed and correlated with other assessments and knowledfge of external facotrs (besides "Black" ( ! ) or "F/RL" ( !) as the only "categories" a child falls into)

seattle citizen said...

"SPS fails our most at risk students time and time and time again."

And WE would fail those kids even more dramatically if we gave up on them by foisting them off on external entities, in effect trusting that those entities would actually meet those kids needs while giving up some of our ability to hold them accountable to what we have so carefully, over decades, formulated as public school policy.

Look at Arne Duncan's work at Ariel Education Foundation, before he became Chicago's supt, and then Secretary of Education:

Ariel is the "non-profit" arm of Ariel Investment, a stock brokerage or financial services group or whatever. Arne directed this "non-profit" arm of this for 6 years. Their main "product" is a school called the Ariel Community Academy.
AEI gives ACA almost a million dollars a year. The district supplies two million. So Ariel is a 1/3 investor.
ACA posts very high "test scores," considerably above Chicago's.
Ariel's main focus, as a school, is economic: It trains its K-8 students to become, in effect, stock brokers. They are given mony to invest and get to keep some of the profits.
All well and good, some might argue: high "test scores" and students are learning a trade...

But: Ariel is an investment firm, no doubt partly culpable in our recent "difficulties." It now has a large amount of control over the school (hence the investment curriculum.)
It is supported by its community.

It is 97% "Black"

So, in my opinion, the community has been sold on the idea that the purpose of education is to produce economic "success" (like recession we now struggle through) The community has, evidently, drank of the Kool-Aide of "high scores" in three categories.

Their parent's, I'd hazard, are mainly poorer, and they have leapt at the chance to find economic "success" for their kids, even at the cost of allowing a business, through its "educational" foundation, to have some of the control that USED to be fully in the hands of Chicago.

Some might think this is ok (some evidently do). I do not. When we give up control (and policies) because we are a) broke and b) convinced that success is predicated on mere WASL scores, we have lost a large and important public asset and our responsibility to provide it.

It is NOT the responsibility of Ariel Investment, or Sloane, or Kroger, or any other corporate entity to teach our children: it's ours.

Sahila said...


Commentary on what's happening in Oregon in the fight for money between charter schools and public school districts...

First California, then Oregon... next stop Washington????

seattle citizen said...

That blog had a link to: http://www.ourglobaleducation.com/
it opens:
"...I very well may have seen the future of the American classroom. Our politicians continue to push high-stakes testing, standards-based learning, surveillance, and efficiency as the cures for our education system. The teacher - you know, that pesky human standing at the front of the classroom - is a variable thatmight be controlled with draconian curricula, pay-for-performance, standardization, and scripted lessons. But the very best of teachers would be an automated system, a computer program requiring the bare minimum amount of human interaction (not to mention zero need for healthcare, wages, or breaks). The human interaction between students and teachers - spontaneous, creative, compassionate, and caring when done by a skilled professional - is a variable that most reformers ignore or dismiss. It can be inefficient; it's expensive; it's too damn unpredictable. Teachers are now the main focus of the Gates Foundation. But teaching - at least according to Gates and his merry band of edupreneurs and philanthrocapitalists - is simply the exchange of information from the teacher's brain to the empty, pathetic, know-nothing minds of our children. Open brain, insert information: Freire's banking theory.
The ideal classroom in the era of hyper-efficiency, technology...[might be]a Pearson testing center, a room I sat in for over an hour while taking a standardized test for my teaching license. Each box represents a workstation equipped with a computer, chair, small desk, and flimsy cubicle divider separating test-takers from their neighbors. From inside a smaller room, a test administrator sat at a desk and could see each test-taker both through large windows; a computer monitor also showed real-time video of each individual in the room. In both the waiting room and pre-test materials, it was made very clear that every minute spent in the Pearson center was under strict surveillance, both audio and visual. This was a high-surveillance environment, not unlike a psychiatric ward or prison....[cont.]

seattle citizen said...

[continued from last post]:
Before getting into the test-taking room, I was required me to submit to two digital fingerprinting scans and sign away any testing information to Pearson (they're permitted, at this point, to transfer my information to anyplace in the world they see fit).
Some readers may say, "This was only for testing; surely a classroom would never look like this!" There's some element of truth to this, but the push for computer-driven education, standardization, common standards, and mass production of "educational" programs (the newest iteration of textbook standardization) will certainly push us is this direction. Edupreneurs and reformers that narrow the definition of education to test scores (Michelle "test-takers for life" Rhee) would find little to nitpick about in this kind of educational setting: it's efficient, is standards-based, doesn't involve the messiness of those pesky variables (teachers, creative students, etc), it's "research-based," and backed by psychometricians. Make it into a charter school and - viola! - you'd have a winning bid for "Race to the Top" funding.
Clayton Christensen, the Harvard professor, business guru, and Mormon Elder pushing disruptive innovation, believes most high school classes will be computer-based in the very near future: 25% of classes online by 2014, half by 2019, and a full 80% of classes by 2024. This is bound to trickle down to the elementary and middle school classrooms as well, but to what degree is still up in the air; we've already seen a major push for online learning for our youngest children through virtual charter schools. Unless we vocally, vociferously, and persistently resist the intrusion of technology-driven reforms and "No-excuses!" pedagogical approaches - which drive out the human element of education while blaming teachers for the social/economic failure of our society - children of the future will spend the majority of their learning time looking at a computer screen.
I hope for something more human; I hope for something better."

Sahila said...

SC - that vision is totally plausible... how efficient it would be to inculcate children in that manner - not allowing them to really learn anything, but to force-feed them information/processes for regurgitation (like the geese force fed to provide pate de fois gras)... move them through the three levels of schooling and then plant them in cubicles at Microsoft or Wall Street, or at a call centre or wherever...

Think that movie WALL-E... I took my kid and a couple of others... I was horrified, absolutely appalled.... not at the content... but at the fact that the theatre was filled with adults who were laughing, loud and long.... did they not get it that the entire film was an up close, in your face crude satire and mockery of how we are killing our world and ourselves... how STUPID we all are...

I sat there in the dark, horrified and disgusted ...

That's how I feel about what's going on in education... horrified and disgusted...

Sahila said...

I wish I could do live links... cant get the hand of it reading the instructions, need someone to show me... anyway...

As SC pointed out....

has a huge amount of discussion and information about who the movers and shakers are in education 'reform' and charters etc...

For anyone wanting to know what is really going on, I'd suggest you go check this blog out also...

You'll notice that other people all around this country have the same concerns we have...

You'll notice who and what is pushing for reform.... look at where they are coming from and then decide if we ought to be enabling/allowing their agendas to be creating our children's education experiences?

seattle citizen said...

Sahila, worse than this"
"move them through the three levels of schooling and then plant them in cubicles at Microsoft or Wall Street, or at a call centre or wherever..."
I fear for those students who our economy can't support as a call CENTER dialer, Microsoftie, stock breaker, uh, broker etc....Even if ALL students were taught Read/ Write, Math, the economy can't give them these jobs: many will end up, anyway, as house painters, baristas, etc. And in this scenario, they will have no means by which to think about the bigger picture: civic action, history, governance...Frankly, with a mere "read-write-math" curricula, maybe with a focus on investing and the market, they will be dullards, unable to connect larger parameters to the human condition.

Unless we also teach art, drama, music as corporate edu-philanthro-capitalism: THEN they can understand the bigger picture through the lens provided by Ariel, Sloane and Kroger: Art for advertising, drama for entertainment, music for the elevators to success!

Sahila said...

Frankly, with a mere "read-write-math" curricula, maybe with a focus on investing and the market, they will be dullards, unable to connect larger parameters to the human condition.

Dont you think that that is the intent behind all this?

God forbid that millions of people begin to wake up and see how they've been sucked into/bred into/stuck in the Matrix, and then demand change...

Isnt that what all revolutions have been about.... substitute the the economy and its puppet masters, who also control our politics/politicians for the royals/ruling classes and you have revolution in the making - not just in one country, but with globalisation all over the world..

So, how to suppress that kind of revolution? Make sure that people are kept dumbed down... suck them into the mousewheel and keep them running on it.... either bribe them into the system (the Amnerican dream can be yours if you just work hard enough) or keep them in it by fear (if you lose your job you'll lose your house and your medical insurance and you'll be out on the streets)...

Very effective social control... why would those profiting the most, want to give any of this up... much more sense to entrench it as much as possible...

seattle citizen said...

The Khmer Rouge killed all of its educated people. Maybe we could just fire all our teachers?

Sahila said...

that'd be a start; and then you make college education so expensive/hard to pay off that only the rich, ruling classes get higher education...

seattle citizen said...

I retract my post referring to the Khmer Rouge. I was trying to be ironic, but I find myself disturbed by my use of that comparative device. I apologize.

dj said...

I understand that people are unhappy with some schools, although I can also say as a parent who has shopped several of them and sent my kid for a year to one that has since been closed and that many posters on here have said it was "fine" to close because it was a "bad school," it's not like the same problems exist in every school that has problems.

It's also indeed the case that standardized test scores are not the be-all, end-all, but I'm not sure what other measures charters are offering to demonstrate superiority. Why would we use them, as compared even with what we have? If we are going to improve what we have, why go through all of the work to legalize and implement charters if we can make changes through the public school system? What is it, specifically, that charters offer that people find appealing?

seattle citizen said...

that is my question exactly. Just about anything you can do by charter you can do in a public, under existing policy,if there's the will.

I fear one of the big reasons for the push towards charters is that it often seems to free the school from hiring/firing policy, and perhaps even the union.

Here's something from the CATO institute from 1994, to give you an idea (it focuses more on vouchers, but you get the drift:
"Our elementary and secondary educational system needs to be radically restructured. Such a reconstruction can be achieved only by privatizing a major segment of the educational system--i.e., by enabling a private, for-profit industry to develop that will provide a wide variety of learning opportunities and offer effective competition to public schools. The most feasible way to bring about such a transfer from government to private enterprise is to enact in each state a voucher system that enables parents to choose freely the schools their children attend. The voucher must be universal, available to all parents, and large enough to cover the costs of a high-quality education. No conditions should be attached to vouchers that interfere with the freedom of private enterprises to experiment, to explore, and to innovate."...
..."The quality of schooling is far worse today than it was in 1955. There is no respect in which inhabitants of a low-income neighborhood are so disadvantaged as in the kind of schooling they can get for their children. The reason is partly the deterioration of our central cities, partly the increased centralization of public schools--as evidenced by the decline in the number of school districts from 55,000 in 1955 to 15,000 in 1992. Along with centralization has come--as both cause and effect--the growing strength of teachers' unions. Whatever the reason, the fact of deterioration of elementary and secondary schools is not disputable. "
so fifteen years ago, the forces of neo-liberalism were already engaged in an effort to dismantle the public system.

seattle citizen said...

Of course, I would argue that schools are "far worse than in 1955" as Cato states.

In 1955, special ed students were isolated more heavily even than they are now.

There were still "separate but equal" schools (1954 was Brown V Board, but that was only a year before)

Alternative schools were merely reentry and "technical" schools, where the "bad" kids were sent.

McCarthyism was rampant, had been for ten years, and college professors and teachers were made to swear loyalty oaths.

Modern pedagogy was virtually unknown: no multiple intelligences, no interdisciplinary learning...okay, I suppose, if someone thinks it's okay to be force-fed a standardized curriculum with little connection to other disciplines and little room for access for those not in lock-steo with teacher's way of thinking...

Classism was rampant (still is, but now we talk about it)

teachers didn't have to deal with some of the things they have to deal with now: now the idea is to educate EVERYBODY, not just those who toe the line.

I'd say that there are quite a few things better than in 1955. But of course work needs to be done. I just don't think selling the system to private enterprise will accomplish the objectives of what we want in education.

seattle citizen said...

OOOPS I should have started that last post with "I think schools are NOT far worse..."

eek....I HAVE to prove read....just not a good keyboardist, so I gotta proof read...you all are very patient...