Frankly, I think that the state-supported Center for Reinventing Education is really nothing but a think-tank for ed reform. They likely get at least half their grant money from the Gates Foundation. I see almost no research on anything else but charters, CMOs, TFA starting a principal TFA (a number of you saw that coming), etc. I don't mind it so much when it's a privately-funded right-wing think tank but it is depressing to see your tax dollars at work for a one-sided effort.
The current push on ed reform:
- something called a "fiscal analytics center" that Paul Hill at CRPE was pushing before he left there recently. It appears to be a souped-up benefit-cost ratio idea.
- using CRPE as a "lead" for any state-driven research so that the research looks more nationally-based. This was discussed in an e-mail from an Ohio group.
Now this idea is allegedly around sharing best practices and getting on-board with the idea that the students in all public schools are, well, everyone's students. And that's true and naturally sounds great. They talk about charter schools recognizing that district schools DO have their own successes.
But looking at what the compacts ask seems to favor the charters. It's things like:
- districts allowing charters free rent/lease in buildings (either unoccupied or to co-house). This is the number one issue for charters because it costs so much money to find and fix up facilities.
-enrichment, meaning charter school students have access to activities like band (because the district has the equipment and facilities), sports (because the district has the equipment and facilities) and other arts (again, because the district has the equipment and facilities).
- professional development for teachers. This one I get from the charter side because districts do this all the time but maybe this is where the best practices side comes in.
- enrollment services. The districts will help with notification about charter schools and include their lotteries in enrollment services.
Now some of what can come out of working together is economies of scale; districts already have a system for buying services and goods at a lower rate because of volume. In return, charter schools share their "innovations" and promise to do better enrolling and keeping Special Ed, ELL, and other high-need students.
Again, it almost seems like the district gets the lesser deal out of this plan. And, charters exist to get away from district rules but it seems like they DO like some of the district benefits. Funny how that works.
From the Gates Foundation:
Through the District-Charter Collaboration Compact, districts will commit to replicating high-performing models of traditional and charter public schools while improving or closing down schools that are not serving students well. Additionally, each city Compact addresses contentious and persistent tensions between district and charter schools, and identifies specific opportunities for the two groups to leverage each others’ strengths in pursuit of a common mission.
And guess who is publishing the annual reports for these compacts? The Center for Reinventing Public Education.
What's interesting is that I see some of the same language that TFA uses. Here's what the Gates Foundation wrote in August 2011:
If you ask a 4th grader, "Tell me about your school," she'll tell you about her teachers, her classes, her friends. One thing she won't tell you about - and won't care about - is whether her school is run by a charter or by a school district."
From the Seattle Times' article on TFA March 8, 2012:
Kenneth Maldonado's students have no idea he is a member of Teach for America. If his fourth-graders heard the name of the organization, "They'd probably ask, "What's a Teach for America?" speculated Keisha Scarlett, principal of South Shore K-8.
It's a lovely line but schools are organized and run by adults and some adults, especially parents, do have the right to ask questions.
Another interesting item in these e-mails is that twice CRPE wonders outloud about getting around the lack of charter legislation.
One e-mail asks about the School Board opting out of operating a school. It was in November of 2009 from the legal person at CRPE to then-head of the SPS Legal department, Gary Ikeda:
I was wondering if you could answer the following question for me: under WA law, is it permissible for a school district to contract out the management of a school to an external provider?
He then references an RCW that allows Boards to contract with a variety of entities to "contract for...educational, instructional, and specialized services. Would this provision permit a school board to contract out the operation of an entire school?"
Unfortunately, there is no reply but I'm assuming the answer was no.
Then, in June of 2011, Paul Hill at CRPE writes to Greg Shaw at the Gates Foundation:
When we talked some months ago you expressed some interest in legal/equity research.
He then explains they have "someone on staff working on analyzing legal barriers to reforms and suggesting ways around them. He is now particularly interested in "local control" principles and how they get in the way of state-initiated education reforms..."
He is also interested in ways states without charter laws (e.g.WA) can nonetheless promote school innovation, family choice and school continuation based on performance.
Would anyone in the Foundation be interested in these ideas?
Again, there was no e-mail answer but I'm pretty sure there might have been a discussion.
Clearly, somehow, some way charter-like schools are going to make their way in (if these people have anything to say about it).
Now I knew at some point in time, the "local control" issue was going to come up as education has always been a local control issue. If Romney wins, DOE will shrink or go away. If McKenna wins, I suspect a shrinking of OSPI will occur. The state PTA can't even be straight on what they will or will not support in charter school legislation. It's somewhat overwhelming.
On the other hand, I like to take a step back, take a deep breath and survey the Washington State landscape.
Do we have charter schools? No.
Have we ever had charter schools? No.
Did charter legislation pass (even get a vote) this session? No.
Is the Democratic candidate for governor supporting charters? No.
Is TFA thriving? No.
So for a relatively small bunch of parents, communities, teachers and others who are working to educate everyone else on what ed reform means, we're doing okay.