Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Winners for Round Two of RTTT

The winners of the second round of Race to the Top were announced. They are; the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island. (Washington State was 32 out of 36. Ouch.)

From ABC news online:

Common threads among the 10 winners announced today include their bold approaches to turning around low-performing schools and their teacher evaluations systems. All of the winners also adopted common academic standards.

The 10 winners were decided based on the scores they received from peer-review panels. All the winners received a score of more than 440 out of a possible 500. In the first phase of the competition, only the two winners, Delaware and Tennessee scored above 440.

I was watching this on the national news and Colorado's governor was complaining that no state west of Tennessee won except Hawaii. He seemed to think there was some bias in there. From ABC news online:

Education experts, however, question why certain states did not make the final cut.

"I think it's a disaster for the administration that Louisiana and Colorado are not on the list. Some very mediocre states got funded and some of the leading states for education reform did not," said Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute agreed.

"I think the exclusion of Louisiana and Colorado suggest legitimate concern over the way the program was conceived, the criteria that was designed and the judging that was executed," he said is a written statement.

Although Colorado and Louisiana are often praised for their reform and innovation, both states failed to get widespread union support for their proposals.

"The dynamic here is the unions are going to be able to claim that they beat this in Colorado and they won a victory," Petrilli said.

Duncan seems happy with just better scores from the states on their application (wait till he sees better test scores).

"We've unleashed this amazing creativity and innovation at the local level," he said. "The amount of reform we saw before round one was amazing, but then again to see so much movement between round one and round two, the average state improving their score by more than 30 points."

54 comments:

ParentofThree said...

Everything I have read about charter schools say that they get mixed results. In some cities they seem to show improved test scores, in others they actually get lower test scores.

Test scores aside, I am starting to think that Seattle is actually missing a golden opptunity by not allowing charter schools. Consider a school where the parents, students, teachers and admin choose textbooks, subject matter instead of being tethered to district mandated curriculum. A school where teachers a free to choose books for their students to read, where students are able to weigh in on reading lists.

Consider a school where district coaches do not enter the building. Start and end times are determined by the school, not the district. Real people cook real food. The principal knows that he/she cannot be resassigned at any given time.

And the school is funded by tax payer $$$, not tuition.

Given the chaos in the SSD, the idea of a homegrown, student, teacher, parent driven school is starting to look really good to me.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Whoa, ParentofThree, parents getting to help choose? There might be a handful of charters in the entire country that allow that. Most are run by entities or companies and parents have to buy into what they provide and how they provide it (like most private schools). Don't think parents get more say at charters.

Likewise with students.

Could you tell us why you believe this could be true?

ParentofThree said...

From the US Charter School website:


Charter schools are nonsectarian public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. The "charter" establishing each such school is a performance contract detailing the school's mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. The length of time for which charters are granted varies, but most are granted for 3-5 years. At the end of the term, the entity granting the charter may renew the school's contract. Charter schools are accountable to their sponsor-- usually a state or local school board-- to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract. The basic concept of charter schools is that they exercise increased autonomy in return for this accountability. They are accountable for both academic results and fiscal practices to several groups: the sponsor that grants them, the parents who choose them, and the public that funds them.

For the legal definition of a charter school in a particular state, consult that state's charter school law through our State Profiles area. We also provide a sampling of other charter school Definitions. To find research on charter schools, visit our Resources area.



Benefits

The intention of most charter school legislation is to:

Increase opportunities for learning and access to quality education for all students
Create choice for parents and students within the public school system
Provide a system of accountability for results in public education
Encourage innovative teaching practices
Create new professional opportunities for teachers
Encourage community and parent involvement in public education
Leverage improved public education broadly
People establish charter schools for a variety of reasons. The founders generally fall into three groups: grassroots organizations of parents, teachers and community members; entrepreneurs; or existing schools converting to charter status. According to the first-year report of the National Study of Charter Schools, the three reasons most often cited to create a charter school are to:

Realize an educational vision
Gain autonomy
Serve a special population
Parents and teachers choose charter schools primarily for educational reasons--high academic standards, small class size, innovative approaches, or educational philosophies in line with their own. Some also have chosen charter schools for their small size and associated safety (charter schools serve an average of 250 students).

Melissa Westbrook said...

Again, "accountable to parents", not parents picking books, curriculum, etc.

From charter resource.org

"Parent involvement in charter schools can be character-
ized by the type of activity (e.g., education-related or
fundraising); by the time commitment (e.g., the frequency
of events or mandated volunteer hours); and by the nature
of the involvement (e.g., formal committee meetings or
informal gatherings).

From ERIC.ed.gov research paper "Parent Involvement in a Charter School"

"Charter schools often begin with much parent and community involvement; yet, the role of parents is often unclear. Parents cited curriculum, technology, and character education as the reasons for sending their children to charter schools. However, the role of parent involvement remained unclear for some parents. The confusion and the resulting low parent involvement might be attributed to the vagueness of the term "open-door" policy or to parents' time constraints."

A very good study I found from Vanderbilt University by Joanna Smith and Priscilla Wohlstetter called Parent Involvement in Urban Charter Schools" A New Paradigm or the Status Quo" had a lot to say.

Of interest to me:

'To this point, David Levin, co-
founder of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), concludes that initially, low-income parents
may often be consumed just trying to make a living, but if their children become successful at
school, gratified families will support the schools in any way they can: good schooling comes
before parental support, not the other way around."

Interesting because I never would have thought about it in the reverse.

Parent involvement is in charter law in 15 states but sounds variable and vague.

"In 15 states, the opportunity for parent participation is one
purpose written into the charter school law; many charter schools are established by a founding
group that includes parents (Center on Educational Governance, 2008). Tennessee’s law
states, “The purpose of this chapter is to …afford parents substantial meaningful opportunities
to participate in the education of their children” (Section 49-13-102(a)(6)) and Utah’s law says,
“The purposes of charter schools are to…provide opportunities for greater parental involvement
in management decisions at the school level” (Section 53A-1a-503). In addition, parent
contracts have been a common approach for charter schools to encourage parent involvement
once the school is operational (Cowrin & Becker, 1995)."

"Despite lofty goals and good intentions, charter schools
vary greatly in how they involve parents. A 2007 survey of charter leaders in three states found
that parent involvement is one area in which charter school leaders, lacking confidence in how
to increase participation, struggle to translate intent into practice: 29 percent of leaders reported
“major challenges” with engaging parents and an additional 43 percent indicated it to be a
“minor challenge” (Gross & Pochop, 2007). Becker et al. (1997) discovered that despite a
Parent Involvement in Urban Charter Schools greater level of involvement, charter schools do not necessarily take a more active role in trying to involve parents; parent contracts were the only notable outreach method."

I looked but couldn't find what percentage of charters were started by parents. I stand by my statement that I don't think that charters afford parents more or better opportunities to influence what is taught and how.

ParentofThree said...

well whatever, all i can say is that i would love to send my students to a school not forced to teach everyday math and writers workshop. Charter schools appear to have flexibility that SPS schools do not.

Anonymous said...

"...Consider a school where the parents, students, teachers and admin choose textbooks, subject matter instead of being tethered to district mandated curriculum. A school where teachers a[re] free to choose books for their students to read, where students are able to weigh in on reading lists..."

Sounds a lot like the Alternative Schools we've already got in Seattle.

And, not at all like KIPP academies that ed-reformers hold up as the successful model for charters.
ken berry

Rabbit said...

I totally agree with parentofthree. In Seattle, charters with the autonomy to choose pedagogy, texts, curriculum, staff, a principal, etc, may very well resemble what our very popular alt schools looked like pre "standardization".

And, no, Melissa, not all charter schools are corporate, chain, factory like, charter schools. That's only one of many many forms of charters.

Many are are parent run co-ops. Do a quick Google search (or see my links below) and you find a myriad of community/family run co-op style charters. You'll also find many independent performing arts charter schools, charter schools of law, charter schools of medicine, and science charter schools. And you'll find Montessori charter schools, Waldorf charter schools, alternative charter schools, parochial charter schools, and the list goes on and on.

A quick Google search and you will see that many, creative, unique, independent charter schools exist out there. And yes, I know some receive private funding in addition to tax dollars. And, no, I don't care as long as the school is serving it's communities needs well and meeting standards.

Corporate, chain, factory style charter schools certainly do exist. But they are but one of many varieties offered.

Charters aren't perfect, they have flaws and rough edges. But the state of SPS is a disaster right now, and charters may look pretty good in comparison.

Here's a few quick links, but take a few minutes and do some google searches yourself.

http://www.hilltowncharter.org/coop.html

http://www.jfkcharterschool.com/

http://www.sdcity.edu/a2/Medicalcharterschool.asp

http://www.montessoricharterschool.com/

http://sunridgeschool.org/

ParentofThree said...

"Sounds a lot like the Alternative Schools we've already got in Seattle."

Exactly my point, except that we no longer have alternative schools in SPS. We have Option schools that are only open to students living in a geographic zone. Options schools are being forced to use the same materials as the regular schools. Options schools cannot set bell times, no longer have meals cooked at the school, all are subject to having their princpal removed at any time, and several have had the threat of closure - and of course we all know about the one and only K-12 alternative school that was closed.

So maybe charter is the way to get back our alternative education available to every student that wishes to enroll.

ParentofThree said...

"But the state of SPS is a disaster right now, and charters may look pretty good in comparison."

No kidding....the amount of chaos is so stressful. Case in point. It is August 26, school starts in just under two weeks and I have NO information regarding transportation, I cannot tell my boss what my work schedule will be yet as I do not know when my students will be picked up or dropped off and where.

Maybe that seems like a little thing to most families, but with three kids in the system, it's a big deal.

Rabbit said...

"Sounds a lot like the Alternative Schools we've already got in Seattle."

Um, you mean the alt schools we used to have pre-standardiation.

Today alt schools are mere shadows of what they used to be. They are now assigned principals and teachers, can not choose their own texts, or subject matter. They have to use standard curriculum (like writers workshop, NSF science kits, reading materials). They have to follow district mandated start and end times, and eat cafeteria food that is pre prepared at central headquarters, and can only participate in district approved field trips. They have no freedom at all any more. They have been standardized to the hilt, and quite honestly, it's difficult to see the difference between an alt and a "traditional" school these days.

Jan said...

Melissa (and ParentofThree): Before I started reading this blog and had my eyes opened to the way "charter schools" have been implemented in the US, I thought they sounded pretty cool -- sort of like Seattle Alt schools, but with even greater autonomy. I have learned that a very large wolf cavorts inside the sheeps' clothing of much of the charter school movement. But -- the suffocatingly bad, top down management (Discovery math, pacing guides and "enforcers to check which page of a horrible curriculum your class is on, the "myth" of earned autonmy -- ugh!) does make me want to revisit the concept. The questions, as I see them, are as follows:
1. How could you draft a charter school law that would eliminate (or highly discourage) for-profit or other "charter chains"? It doesn't strike me that this should be impossible, in theory, though I don't know if you could open the charter "pandora's box" without loosing all the bad stuff. If you started to try to put together charter legislation that required local control, single school models (not chains), etc., would/could it withstand the intense lobbying effort by the national charter chains to "let them in?" I am dubious.
2. Based on the evidence Melissa has cited, is it reasonable to think that truly locally/parent controlled charters would work? Would the parent communities in schools with high numbers of underperforming students have the time, resources, experience, etc. necessary to run a local school, oversee the selection of books and staff, etc.? When I look at the work that Trish Dziko and TAF have done, I think -- yes, there are incredible local resources willing, interested, and able to create really interesting schools that would function well as charters. And a TAF type model only scratches the surface of the kinds of schools that parents might want to support.

But boy, am I afraid to lift the lid -- at least until the current "top down" craze has run its course, we have a Superintendent who actually starts from the position of wanting to figure out and implement what Seattle parents want for their children (as opposed to arriving with her solution all packaged and ready to go -- so she needn't bother with comments or protests from the riff raff). Until we are out of the current disaster (which I assume will run its course either when children start hating school so much (since it it mostly test drill, and most of the challenging, interesting stuff is gone) or when someone finally realizes that it is doing nothing to improve "student learning" (whether measured by test scores or by performance in college or afterwards), I wonder if we aren't better off trying to cleanse our District of its current scourge, and working within the Alt school parameters for greater school choice.

Anonymous said...

"To this point, David Levin, co-
founder of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP)...good schooling comes
before parental support, not the other way around."

Yes, this quote is interesting and I'm still wrestling with how to wrap my brain around it...

It's my understanding that parents are required to sign some document that commits them to be actively involved and responsible for their child's efforts at KIPP (correct me if I'm mistaken).

Which came first: "the chicken or the egg; "good schools or parental support?" Is there more to David Levin's statement than it just being a POV on a circular argument?

There are media reports of children dropping out or being pulled out of KIPP schools. Lack of parental involvement, poor student performance, not the right fit...? Is there a research paper focusing on those questions?

Finally, Alternative Schools' graduates fall off the map because they don't graduate on time. I'd like to see a detailed longitudinal study of these graduates that takes snapshots at 17yrs, 23yrs, 27yrs...

Food for thought.
ken berry

ParentofThree said...

I would love nothing more to reinstate the Alternative Education model that was in place pre-MGJ. The great thing is that the schools are in place, with communities willing to pitch in. But as long as we under the rule of the current district admin and school board, our children are stuck.

So hence my thought of a charter school, where we could take the framework of an Alternative school, like Salmon Bay, and return it to the community - the ones who understand the needs of the students better than anybody else. And yes, that does include parents. Remember site based management, Building Leadership teams? This is where teachers, parents and admin worked together. And the words; "district mandated" were not heard.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Rabbit, I did not say all charters are chains. But parent-grown charters are the exception, not the rule.

I totally agree that SPS alts have slowly lost their autonomy and it's for the worse. That we were able to build our own schools pre-charter should say something.

I know for sure that BLTs and Site Councils still exist at some schools.

I think I worry about how the charter law would be written and what it would mean to already existing SPS schools. But hey, there's still the Spadys.

zb said...

"well whatever, . . . ." and "duh"

Are you folks, like, 12, or do adults really speak this way these days? I'm kind of old, so perhaps I'm not savvy to the rhetorical styles currently acceptable among the younger crowd.

(Sorry, I couldn't help myself. I also had to walk up the hill both ways to school).

Can someone who likes charters link to an example charter they think is a good example?

My reading of the literature suggests that the "parent-run" antonymous model PoT and Rabbit are suggesting are actually a point of failure in the charter literature. The "mixed" literature suggests that the states in which charters were generally successful were ones where there was a significant degree of regulations of the charter schools.

If, on the other hand, what folks are suggestion is that they'd like to start a school with a bunch of their friends for a bunch of their children and get me (the taxpayer) to pay for it, well, that's a plan I'm not very likely to sign up for. That's a private school, and I expect it to be paid for privately.

zb said...

Now, on the other hand, I did feel, when I toured schools, that there was a lack of a "traditional" model in the schools I saw. Everyone seemed to say that they'd teach social interaction, a love of learning, problem solving, . . . . and no one said we'll teach using fact intensive, traditional methods with a big does of discipline and competition.

My kids are doing fine under the currently vogue model of education, but I did meet parents who were looking for more formal disciplined styles for their own children (i.e. the father who had gone to a school where kids' test scores were publicly posted, and who though his son would also learn more under such a competitive regime). I do think that style should be available for children. Is it? Are more traditional methods used in religious schools, for example?

seattle said...

I am not a big fan of charter schools in general, largely because they drain effort and talent from public schools. However, if you are going to have charters, I can't see a much better way to go than the Coeur d'Alene Charter Academy (http://www.cdacharter.org/). Disclosure: I know a Board member there well, so I'm not unbiased.

This school is conceived as a rigorous college prep school comparable to the big East Coast boarding schools. They have very limited sports, but focus on academics. Where else are you going to find Latin taught in a secular public school?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Just to let you know, Roosevelt High School has taught Latin since they opened their doors in 1922.

Maureen said...

My reading of the literature suggests that the "parent-run" antonymous model PoT and Rabbit are suggesting are actually a point of failure in the charter literature.

zb Are you saying that the parent run schools were failures or that the literature fails to address paretnt run schools? (Or something else altogether? :)) (I glanced quickly at the CREDO report technical appendix and didn't see any distiction made between corporate and parent run charters.)


Melissa, (as I'm sure you know) just because a school has a BLT or Site Council doesn't mean any real shared governance is going on.

Josh Hayes said...

Quite true, Maureen - at AS1 we've historically been governed by our Site Council, which includes - everyone. Parents, teachers, other staff, students. When I first started at AS1, in Fall of 2002, turnout for SC meetings was, oh, close to a hundred. It's since fallen to perhaps a dozen on a good day. This is because a) any real decisions about school governance are now made by the BLT, and even THEY don't get to decide much of anything, and b) fatigue. We've been fighting the district for nigh on 40 years now, and like a victim of an anaconda, the unrelenting squeeze has pretty much squished the life out of us.

dan dempsey said...

.. from Education and Finance Policy Journal...

Charter School Research

from MIT Press

A bit old from 2006.

Volume 1 #1 all articles are free and all are about charter schools. Most comments and conclusions are still relevant.
===========

seattle said...

Learn something new every day. Two other good things about the CDA charter school I mentioned are that it was a home-grown effort, not a franchise, and that the board is largely made up of parents and community members. The latter can be a bit of a 2-edged sword, since parents can be a bit too involved.

Jan said...

zb: Allow me to try to cajole a bit. Assuming it is not quite so "scurrilous" as "a bunch of people starting a school with a bunch of their friends for a bunch of their children" -- assuming that it is a legitimate school where any child in the district who wants can attend -- as long as the tax dollars are the same dollars, and the kids are getting a better education -- why not? Obviously, since tax dollars are at work, we can't have the Aryan Nations Elementary School, or the IRA Terrorist
Free Northern Ireland Elementary School. I get that we have a constitution, a bill of rights, Title IX, IDEA, etc. and that charter schools have to comply with a number of laws relating to inclusiveness and nondiscrimination. But if someone wants to start a "classical" school -- teaching the trivium (which definitely excludes everyday math), and they want the public money that would be allocated to their students to fund it, why should I not be ok with that? My medicare deductions go each month into the pockets of doctors selected by senior citizens who may frequent medical practitioners I think are bogus. Is that a bad use of my tax dollars? I don't think so. Right now -- my tax dollars are busy at work lining the pockets of the folks who make the MAP test, and for years, I have enriched the company who brought us the WASL (and charged us a fortune to "score" it) and their horrible math curriculum. Why is it that we think that just because decisions are somehow made "centrally for all of us," they are more deserving of our tax dollars than similar (but not identical) decisions made locally by the actual recipients of the services that those tax dollars fund?

I don't doubt that tax dollars can be misspent locally as well as centrally -- so, ok -- we need limits on salaries, budgets, audited financial statements, etc. etc., whatever is needed for transparency and accountability. But -- we need that now (and aren't getting it) -- for the tax dollars flying out of the Stanford Center each day to pay for retirement parties with carving stations, dozens of teaching coaches who never cross paths with a student and do nothing to meet the day to day needs of teachers, students and families, reimbursement for illegal small business seminars, etc. etc. Personally, I would much rather have my tax dollars spent to buy sixty copies of the basal readers that are used by Mary Peschi in her (highly scripted, but highly successful) "At Last, a Reading Method for Every Child" curriculum -- which is one my child could actually have learned from. Instead, kids who can't in fact, learn from the centrally prescribed, philosophically required-for-every-child curriculum that some jury-rigged central committee comes up with, either fail/quit -- or their parents are forced to pay private school tuition or to homeschool.

Oops. Sorry, zb. I may have started trying to cajole, but this is starting to sound like a rant. My point is -- why not allow parents/communities to form smaller schools (with rules, oversight, sunset clauses, whatever accountability you want) and use "tax dollars" to educate kids with "all kinds of minds" in "all kinds of schools?"

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

No ZB I am not 12, I was just pointing out that Melissa again comes with loaded guns to shoot anybody who does not agree with her. It is a trend that has been pointed out over and over and over on many threads

seattle citizen said...

Jan, would your proposed charter school be required to teach any student who walked in the door? Would it be required to KEEP teaching any student in its program?

A common criticism of charters is that they don't take in "certain kinds" of students, or make students sign behavior contracts where if the student messes around, they're out(depending on the charter - remember that they can be written in any form, with any provisions negotiated between district and charter operator)

My concern about charters (and we've been over all this before in this thread, but here 'tis again) is:

a) everything they do can be done within a public school framework (if policy is followed) so why do we need them? For example, many of Seattle's original alternative schools (NOVA, Summit, NOMS (now merged into Salmon Bay)...were created by educators and parent/guardian communities coming together, proposing new programs, and enacting them under existing policy. Who needs a charter? We still have program proposal policies on the books - you can propose a program tomorrow...Taht it would likely be turned down speaks to another problem with charters: They (or many of them) are currently being used as tools to create schools outside the policy structure of public schools. As a taxpayer, I don't want my money being sent to some fly-by-night operation that is not part of the democratically run public district - public schools are subject to all policies, as should any school using my money. I fear that a district's refusal to start a new program in-house might be a de facto abrogation and sluoughing off of its responsibilities - Some would argue thsat the district's actions in closing and manipulating the alternative schools in Seattle does the same thing - allows an argument for non-policy (and labor contract following) charters to fill in the void as parents bemoan the absence of choice and opportunity for their kid.

Heck, the whole standardization canard could serve the same purpose: savyy parents want choice and rich curriculum - would your proposed charter (if you proposed one!) have to follow the same aligned curriculum as SPS is currrently designing? Prob'ly not, eh?

So I see charters, as they are positioned today, as attempts to de-public the public schools, remove accountability, and break the unions. Are there good charters? Certainly. Are they "public schools"? No. They have some degree of autonomy from policy, and therefore are removed from that democratically driven system (i.e. elected Board -> Supt -> Principals -> Teachers/classifieds) that my money funds.

seattle citizen said...

oops. I wrote:
(and we've been over all this before in this thread, but here 'tis again)

but I meant "over all this on this blog"

See links on blog mainpage to these ongoing discussions about charters.

(WV thinks my side of the argument is winable)

zb said...

"zb Are you saying that the parent run schools were failures or that the literature fails to address paretnt run schools?"

I think I'm saying the autonomous (ok, that looks better) model is a problem. Charter schools need strict oversight, or they can perform significantly worse than public schools (and, unfortunately, this also means that the autonomy that might allow them to perform above other schools for a select population is also going to be difficult to enable).

And, frankly, I'm uncomfortable with the medicare model as well. Without more experience, I can't say whether I think a single employer model would work better, but I certainly am not sure tha tit wouldn't.

I used to think that individual subsidies for university education (with little regulation) was a reasonable way to allow students to pick their own universities. But, I'm not so sure about that anymore. I think the private student lending business has been terrible, and I think the ability of students to make private decisions with taxpayer money has created serious issues in the secondary education market.

I don't have any desire to make schools more like either of those systems, which are not ones I want to emulate.

If we were really going to go that route, I would rather allow everyone to keep their own money and make their own education decisions (this isn't vouchers, by the way, because I wouldn't give people vouchers. I'd just decrease taxes by the amount that currently pays for our public educational enterprise).

Rabbit said...

SC says in reference to charter schools: They can "make students sign behavior contracts where if the student messes around, they're out"

Public schools dump problem kids too. It's called suspension and expulsion, and they send them to re-entry schools too.

Then SC says: "everything they do can be done within a public school framework (if policy is followed) so why do we need them? "

Really? Can SPS schools choose their own math texts? Science curriculum? Can they choose their own Principals? Staff? Pedagogy? Type of food they serve? Geographical area they serve?

Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope and nope. But charters can.

Momma Snark said...

As a teacher, I really wish more "students sign behavior contracts where if the student messes around, they're out." Honestly. At this point, what's stopping kids from completely disrupting an entire class if they feel like it? I realize we can't just ignore these kids, but there has to be a consequence for outlandish or disruptive behavior in a learning environment.

Also, FWIW, my mom started a charter school. Still open, still doing well (not in WA, obviously).

Jan said...

sc: Yes, within the same "limits" as any public school run in the usual manner, my imagined charter school would have to take all comers, and keep any student who comes in the door. The exceptions (as I see them) are the same ones that "regular" schools have:
1. Not all schools take all special ed kids. Many of the Lowell special ed kids are there because they really can't be anywhere else. It used to be (and I preferred this) that there were specific schools with really good autism spectrum programs (Ballard being maybe the best known). Maybe not EVERY school needs to have EVERY program, but at the same time -- you cant just tell all the SPED kids that all the good alt programs/schools are for the better kids, and they have no choices except for "standard" large high schools. I think it would have to be done on a case by case basis, but depending on the kind of charter, some "kinds" of disabilities do much better in certain settings -- and I think it would be up to charters to make the case (based both on the pedagogy they are using and the demand in the district) for which special programs they would serve. I think this is slightly more chaotic than what happens now (someone downtown "decides" where your kid goes -- and you really don't have any choice) but I think it could be made to work, especially since SOME pedagogies that might be used in a charter school (like direct instruction) lend themselves very well to certain learning disabilities or to things like the early stages of ELL.
As for keeping kids -- I also think they need to work like public schools -- so you don't have the egregious examples that I hear about in KIPP schools where 3/4 of the kids are gone by the end of the school's age limit. But on the other hand -- kids DO get suspended/expelled from "regular" schools, and I think that all schools need to have that ability, at some point, for some behaviors. I also think that charters would be formed specifically to address the needs/learning styles/issues of some of these populations -- and that they could be GREAT schools.
As for the "contracts" between the schools and the districts -- it sounds as though they get "out of hand" in some cases, allowing the schools more ability than many (including me) would be comfortable with in terms of getting rid of kids. I think that the underlying "law" allowing charters would need to be written to disallow egregious behavior on the part of the school staff. But frankly, in the case of some behavior, it doesn't belong in ANY "regular school." If you are going to be so disruptive that the teacher can't teach -- you need to be (at least temporarily) in a separate class in the building, or a separate building in the district -- and this is true of ALL schools, charter or not.

cont'd

Jan said...

That leaves two issues: fidelity to all policies, and union issues.

On policies, I think there are some that charter style alts would have to agree to live with -- and others that they should be released from (the latter group includes virtually all curriculum choices), at least as they relate to pedagogy and materials. I suppose you could keep the learning standards -- but even there, in some schools (like Waldorf) the teaching of reading follows a different timeline but everyone gets there in the end. As long as kids all get to about the same place by middle/high school, why should anyone micromanage exactly when the sounding out of words happens? Also -- I agree with Sahila that not all kids need to leave high school prepared for a four year liberal arts college, if they are going to culinary school, or shipbuilding school, or acting school. As long as there is rigorous learning going on, and the district overseeing the charters maintains a level of rigor that is appropriate (based on their reaction to the proposals of the school), there is nothing "sacred" about many of these policies. They change from time to time. Things that are nonnegotiable today will be out in 5 years, and things no one requires now will be non-negotiable then. If/when we go to requiring 24 credits to graduate, will we go back and "void" or "asterisk" all those old diplomas, because the kids clearly didn't deserve to graduate from high school? Of course not, because these are all arbitrary policies, and if a school community has a good reason for doing something else -- they should be able to. I feel the same about class hours, starting times -- you name it. And seat time? Hm. How is it that kids who cannot be trusted to learn anything at all if their rears are not glued to a seat 6 hours a day at age 17 as high school seniors are -- all of them -- perfectly capable of covering 2 or 3 times as much material the next year, as college freshmen, even though they may have only 12 to 15 class hours per week?

Finally -- the unions. The only distinctions I would make here is that I would keep, or hope to keep, the entire teaching staff unionized, but the model would require two things:
1. Teachers would not be able to force their way onto a teaching staff at an alt or charter school, if their teaching style, experience, etc. was incompatible. But even now -- can a teacher who has never been trained in Montessori demand a Montessori position at Graham Hill? Can a teacher who does not speak Spanish or Chinese demand a spot in one of the international schools? I would assume not, but don't really know.
The only other thing might be that, in the case of some charters, the hours of instruction, etc., might be different, and so the union rules would have to accommodate that. If you have an experiential school where everyone goes out and lives in the wilderness for a week in February, with teachers as group guides -- they would have to be up for that to work in that school. This doesn't seem all that hard to me, but maybe I am naive.

Josh Hayes said...

Well, Rabbit, that's true - but it didn't USE to be true. It's been a deliberate effort on the part of SPS central to deny local choices in curriculum, in pedagogy, in staff choices - including principals - and so forth.

My belief is that this is for the explicit goal of doing away with the "charter-like" functionality we used to have in SPS, so that they could cry that "we need charters!" and so privatize what used to be public alternative schools. But maybe that's just paranoia on my part. If only it didn't comport so well with the facts on the ground.

seattle citizen said...

Rabbit, if an SPS school suspends or expels a student, it (or another school) will take the student. In the case of suspension, the student will return to the sending school. Long-term suspension warrants a re-entry program, then return to sending school. Explusion requires, I believe, a "cooling off period, then return to SOME SPS school, or arrangements for SOME sort of public education (I'm not as clear on this point) Public schools are required to teach every child, bottom line, and they can't, without serious cause, move students along.

Regarding curriculum: So you're saying that because the board has approved common curriculum, charters should be formed to be exempt from it? Then (as the board committee is discussing tonight, I believe) why shouldn't ALL public schools have the ability to waive this requirement?

Seattle District? Seattle Policy. If I as a taxpayer (and voter for board members) am giving money to create schools, I expect that they will all hold to the policy that board creates, I don't expect to schools to veer off with my money and have their own little gig.

I think there SHOULD be waivers to common curriculum. So I should advocate for it, vote for board members who support it. I don't beleive it honors the intention of public education to just hand my money to whoever wants it because they don't like policy.

seattle citizen said...

Jan, thank you for a lengthy and thoughtful response.

My question to everybody: Why do we need charters, if public schools (sans charters) can have policy made that allows for all the things Jan brings up?

We CAN have choice, varied styles, varied programs...We CAN have varied curriculum.

It concerns me when the argument is made that we need some sort of charter (or even exception to any given policy....and there are many, granted) because the "regular" schools don't do this or that. Basically that is saying, "our board, with our money, isn't doing what we want so we should be given the money and be freed from some policy constraints to do something else."

To me this is an abrogation of responsibility. Sure one can make the arguement that districts aren't doing what we want. Is that justification for fracturing that democratically structured system into myraid pieces, diminishing the will of the citizeny (as expressed through their election of a board to make policy and oversee the supt, who runs the schools)?

So: It's true that the district does things I don't like. I'd love to see non-"aligned" curriculum again. Should I therefore argue for an exception? Why not argue for change to the existing structure? Sounds like there are a lot of people out there who want choice and change, why not do the democratic thing and do right by the entire system instead of carving out an exception for one's own particular desire?

Rabbit said...

That's an interesting point Josh, and not so far fetched. I'll have to ponder it ....

seattle citizen said...

Not only does doing away with alternatives (or moving them, etc) help the cause of charters, but so does common, or aligned, curriculum. While there are certainly some benefits to aligned curriculum, when it becomes nearer to standardized, scripted, packaged curriculum it drives away those parent/guardians (and students) who value depth and richness and "teachable moments" etc.

So, strangely, while one half of the argument for "reform" is standards, everyone doing the same thing etc (how can you measure teachers against one another unless they are all doing the same thing?) the other half is extolling the wonders of charters that allow choice and options.

seattle citizen said...

So half the parents looki elsewhere, the ones looking for depth; charters etc.

The other half, the parents who are poor, disenfranchized etc, minority groups (the tool and target of reform) are convinced that the system put in place in their poor neighborhoods is an improvement: KIPP, Edison, etc

win-win for reform - "choice" for those looking for non-aligned teaching; "rigor" and "structure" for those who are convinced their student's school, teacher, and students are "failing."

Maureen said...

A friend of a friend is a teacher in Portland, she has now pulled both of her kids out of public schools (one from the popular immersion school she teachers at) and has sent them to Charter schools. The kids are bright/quirky and just weren't progressing or fitting in the way they should have.

I asked her if she thought it was a problem that people like her were leaving the public sytem. The charters her kids are at are pretty (ethnically) diverse, but the 'problem' kids aren't there. She allowed that was an issue (she has seen the value of having economic diversity in her own classroom) but knew she had to do what was best for her own kids.

Of course Alternative schools in Seattle can be like this too. Parents have to know/care enough to sign up so that creates a different population of students. It will be interesting to see if the "Geographic Zones" impact that.

Josh Hayes said...

Interesting perspective, Maureen. Thanks for that.

I suspect that AS1 will close in another year or so: the enrollment just continues to fall, and the original approach of the school has been so watered-down that there's really not all that much alternative about it (though what remains is, for my kids, great). Just for the sake of argument, if AS1 DID close, that would mean that the N and NE areas would not have an "option" school in the middle school years. Or would SPS call Addams an "option" school - a peculiar judgement, since they were assigning kids to it when it opened, and there's really nothing alternative about it anyway.

Josh Hayes said...

I just had a brilliant thought: here's how to get the district behind the health and well-being of AS1:

Change the name to "Charter School #1", and go back to the original school structure. I LIKE it! (But don't tell 'em it's not really a charter school, see.)

dan dempsey said...

RttT winner Mass. from WGBH - Boston
what it means .........


There is a lot worth listening to in the series of podcasts linked below.

8-25-2010 Diane Ravitch Podcast on Education and RttT

It is the first program below:


The Emily Rooney Show
Each weekday, 12noon-1pm, on 89.7 WGBH (Boston)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Race to the Top
Kara Miller guest hosts.

Listen here:
http://streams.wgbh.org/online/roon/roon_podcast.xml

Rabbit said...

Actually, Josh, if charters were legal in WA, a charter school could be created and modeled after the original AS1 structure. Counter productive to create what we already had once, I know, but it may be the only shot for alt ed in Seattle at this point.

Jan said...

I agree with Josh and SC (at least I think I do -- if I have understood them correctly, and if I didn't, I apologize in advance):
I do NOT argue/advocate for charter schools right now. I DO think that we could (theoretically, but we can't practically, right now) achieve most of what charter schools do, within public schools, IF we would bring alts back to what they were originally intended to be/do. The good things about working with alts within the current structure are two (as I see them):
First, it tends to get rid of the national/for-profit (or nonprofit in name only) charters, as they won't want to/be able to work within the framework of public schools.
Second -- I sort of think that part of the reason for killing Seattle's alts is to drive all choice OUT of the system (when the District knows that families want/need it), in hopes of driving us directly into the arms of Charter legislation that will overwhelm us with bad charter schools that do NOT permit/welcome parent input, that intentionally drive out kids who they don't want, and that do not promote true diversity. I hate to say it -- but I worry about our chances of ever being able to nurture along a "good" charter law, with huge amounts of private funding straining to get THEIR hands on our physical assets and our tax money for cookie cutter charter schools with long hours, Saturday sessions, etc.

What I want to do is get rid of a couple of board members (enough to undo the mindless majority that currently backs policies that Seattle parents do NOT support), get rid of the current district management in favor of management that will return taxpayer dollars to schools, and will support greater choice in education. ALL Montessori schools should be choice schools; all language immersion schools should be choice schools; Summit should have been supported, not closed; AS1 should get waivers to return to a truly alt status, and the existing ALT policy (INCLUDING the idea that the community has meaningful input into the selection of the principal and the staff) should be restored.
The Board should being to refuse to vote on ANY district supported agenda items that have not been subject to meaningful (not pretend, artificial) community involvement.
If people out there really want changes in the way teachers are evaluated -- let them start with the four tier plan that has already been agreed to, and let them start putting in place pilot programs to see if there is, in fact, any way to use student performance in fairly evaluating teacher effectiveness -- AND what the "true cost" is -- in dollars for the tests, in degradation of the curriculum, in the performance of those same students on the HSPE, college entrance exams (PSATs, SATs, ACTs), in drop out rates, in college acceptance rates. Give me 10 years of robust data -- and THEN let's see where we are!

uxolo said...

Instead of parent-run charter schools, why not use the Local School Council model to govern our PUBLIC schools? With this model, each school has parents, guardians, people who LIVE in the neighborhood and principal with equal voting power making budget, scope and sequence decisions, you name it.

Families are already invested in their schools, why not get some voting rights? It would certainly bring back a decentralized school system.

I thought CPPS was working on this possibility.

Josh Hayes said...

uxolo, I think the point is, SPS central views local control as anathema. They don't even want schools shuffling staffing around: for years we did without a counselor at all in favor of using that (certified) slot for an extra teacher. No more - and I LIKE our counselor, but it'd sure be nice to have another teacher.

So I guess the reason we can't have schools governed by the people at the school - principal, teachers, parents, students, other staff - is because SPS doesn't want that to happen. They don't want anyone having a vote except them.

Maybe the better question is, how do we wrestle that power back, at least for some set of "different" schools; we could call them, um, something to distinguish them from standard schools. Hmm. "Alternative", perhaps? :-)

Josh Hayes said...

And by the way, I don't want to disrespect traditional-model schools. For a lot of kids, that's a really good pedagogical model. But for a significant number of OTHER kids, that doesn't work, and other approaches do. It's a big-tent idea.

Maureen said...

Does anyone here know anything about Portland charter schools? Here's a link to The Emerson School

It sounds like it applies something like the "City School" model that TOPS used to be able to emphasize more:

On their daily visit to a local park, students notice a large number of bicycles over-filling a bicycle rack. Through a class discussion and problem solving session, they decide that another bicycle rack is needed nearby for people to safely store their bikes. This requires a study of city services: who needs to be contacted, what type of proposal needs to be written, and how to pay for the new rack. The final result is a written proposal to the City, a bake sale to raise the funds, and a ceremony as the new bike rack is installed. Through a wide variety of community service projects, students learn the importance of being contributing members of the school and community at large.

Click on the "Curriculum FAQs" page. Too long to post here, but sounds ideal to me.

CAO Susan Enfield came from Portland I think. I wonder if all of her talk about Alts being innovative is related to her experience there? (Maureen thought hopefully)

Rabbit said...

Sounds a lot like what AE2's (now Thornton Creek) experiential learning used to look like. How sad that we are losing so much of the creative learning experience for more and more rote standardization.

Rabbit said...

Bingo Josh!

I totally understand that with an assignment plan that severely limits choice and transportation, and forces families into neighborhood schools then those neighborhood schools should all offer close to the same services and opportunities (IE all schools have a counselor, art, music, recess, etc).

However "option" schools, as choice schools, should have far more freedom and leeway to choose their own pedagogy, staff, budget,start and end times, school governance, geographical draw, etc.

Why are option schools subject to the rote standardization (Discovery math, Writers Workshop, NSF kits, start/end times, centralized meal service, etc)? That just doesn't make sense.

Jan said...

When Raj left, many of the old school board members left, etc. -- I don't recall anyone --ANYONE -- saying that they disliked Seattle's alts, or wanted to water them down, remove local control, or get rid of them entirely. And because I LOVE the alts (and wish there were more of them), I don't think that would have slipped by me. There may have been some specific problems with specific alts, -- but in general, I think Seattle families have always supported them.

So -- how is it, then, that we have a school board that is so totally willing to destroy our alt schools? -- and so totally unwilling to listen to parents and students on the issue?
Somehow, in the "guise" of putting together a local neighborhood assignment plan (I was against going to the SAP as well, but I understand I lost that particular battle, and I agree that the old choice system had lots of warts), MGJ has used it as an opportunity to:
1. Destroy alts (literally, or by a thousand cuts, in the case of AS1, etc.)
2. Centralize "curriculum," and, yes, pedagogy -- because there is no way you can keep pace with the Everyday Math "pacing guides" and simultaneously teach mastery-based math with nonexistent Singapore resources); and
3. Do away with things like site-based participation in things like principal selection, etc.?

Also Rabbit -- I am not sure I would concede "close to the same services and opportunities" -- as this kind of language is, I think how "control" becomes so centralized. If you read Charlie's notes on the latest curriculum meeting -- there is all this emphasis on not allowing any one school to have stuff that not all schools can get -- because it wouldn't be "equitable." We don't all have the academies that Ballard has (and I would have loved my child to go there for one -- but we live too far away -- but I do NOT want to deprive the Ballard students of those just because my student doesn't get them. Not all kids get access to IB. Only a couple of schools have award-winning jazz programs. It was FINE with me if Nathan Hale wanted to start later, and require less seat time (as long as it was published, and test scores were about the same -- but then I don't ascribe to the view that seat time equals education). Every time we allow District central to use the equity argument -- it becomes justification for them to take decisionmaking, and opportunities, away from school sites.

I realize site based decisionmaking is not the holy grail of education administration either, because not all schools have local administrators of equal quality, equally involved PTSAs, etc. BUT -- it seems to me that a concerned and devoted parent/community group can make a whole lot more impact at a single school level than they seem to be able to make at the district level.

Charlie Mas said...

Hmmm. How to say this? Hmmm.

I really, really liked what I heard Susan Enfield say at the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meeting about the alternative schools having license to use the materials and pedagogy of their choice, so long as they met the content requirements of the State Standards and the District College-Ready Standards.

The only thing that troubled me about the words was their source: Susan Enfield. She will say anything and it will mean nothing. She strikes me as obsequious to those above her and tyrannical to those beneath her. She has shown herself to be completely without principle.

The Alternative School Policy, C54.00, if followed, would allow the alts to choose their own staff, including principal. Unfortunately, Major General Johnson will not delegate any such authority to the school site. That authority, like all authority in the District, must be hoarded centrally.

So Dr. Enfield can say all kinds of pretty things to the Alternative School Coalition, or to the Board, or to the public, but, in the end, all of the authority will be retained in the death grip of the Major General.

Jan said...

That was quite a Hmmm, Charlie. Here is what I think!

IF the Board took note of the Alt policy and decided to enforce/defend it against the current onslaught, all they would have to do would be to let the Superintendent and her staff no that the next vote on (pick your pleasure -- start times, text books, pedagogy, pacing guides, SAP plans that lead to ludicrous results like language immersion programs not being optional) would be a "no" vote -- unless she brings them something that (1) has been through a valid community engagement process and (2) conforms to the ALT policy.

We will never have good governance with this Superindentant (because she is not good at governing) -- but we would have less horrible governance if the Board would perform their function as a board (and ultimately, we might have a change of governance, if the current administration got tired of having to play by the rules (i.e. -- the policies).

Melissa Westbrook said...

"with loaded guns to shoot anybody who does not agree with her"

Hilarious because the original post wasn't EVEN about charters and somehow here we are.

I put up some research on charters and parent involvement and that's "loaded guns"? Holy cow. I even said you could join forces with the Spadys if you wanted. I'm encouraging anyone who thinks charters are the answer to go out and make it a reality. What's stopping you?

Momma Snark, I would love to hear your mother's charter story. Maybe you could ask her if she would be willing to write a thread about it. I would be glad to put it up.