SOAR Charter Academy in Tacoma apparently did do all the corrections that the Charter Commission had required them to do and SOAR did open this week. (I note that they already had an early-release day - that was fast.) The Times is reporting that all eight charter schools opening this fall are full and had lotteries. (There was no evidence given how the Times knows this to be true.)
Speaking of charters, wealthy ed philanthropist Eli Broad is doubling down in LA. From the Los Angeles Times:
A prominent local education foundation is discussing a major expansion of charter schools in Los Angeles aimed at boosting academic achievement for students at the lowest performing campuses.
But charter school leaders said they have met with officials from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation in recent months about the effort. The Keck Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and other organizations that support the independently run, publicly financed charters also are involved, according to people who attended the meetings.
An ambitious expansion of charter schools would be costly and would likely face a political fight. And it's not known what kind of funding commitments the organizers have locked down. One person who attended a meeting said the goal was to enroll in charter schools half of all Los Angeles students over the next eight years.
Charter proponents considered it a setback when former Supt. John Deasy resigned under pressure in October. Deasy now works for the Broad Foundation as "superintendent in residence" to help train and coach current or aspiring senior school district administrators.
Also in the LA region, a group of students is suing Compton Unified School District for not providing trauma services they say they needed because of living in a violence-prone city like Compton. From NPR:
To understand the complaint, you need to understand Compton.
The city, located just south of LA, has long had a violent reputation. Last year, its murder rate was more than five times the national average. Now, a handful of students say they've been traumatized by life in Compton and that the schools there have failed to give them the help they deserve.
The complaint is a terrifying read — of kids coping with physical and sexual abuse, addicted parents, homelessness and a constant fear of violence.
This constant fear of violence, according to the court papers, is not about violence at schools but about schools' reactions to students' behavior who had been traumatized by events outside of school.
"That impacts concentration, the ability to just listen to what the teacher is saying, to understand what you're reading, to remember something that you learned or what the teacher just said," Ko says.
Not only that, many traumatized students live in a state of constant alarm. Innocent interactions like a bump in the hallway or a request from a teacher can stir anger and bad behavior.
The lawsuit alleges that, in Compton, the schools' reaction to traumatized students was too often punishment — not help.
The suit argues that trauma is a disability and that schools are required — by federal law — to make accommodations for traumatized students, not expel them. The plaintiffs want Compton Unified to provide teacher training, mental health support for students and to use conflict-mediation before resorting to suspension.
This very much speaks to the issue of disproportional discipline (Compton is a largely black area).
It also certainly opens up a lot of discussion:
- if the lawsuit is against the school district for not recognizing trauma as a disability and providing services, why aren't the plaintiff suing the City for an unsafe environment?
-trauma certainly would be a big disability for districts to wrap their arms around. Just as there is a spectrum of Special Education services, there is likely a spectrum for trauma. Parents divorcing can be traumatic for a child but someone who witnesses violence/drug abuse may be very traumatized and a child who immigrates from a war-torn country has likely been hugely traumatized.
The costs could be huge but certainly teachers and administrators should be trained to recognize the signs.
I will gently say, though, that while I support this kind of training, I also note that teachers and administrators are not hired to be counselors and psychologists. There has to be understanding of what trauma looks like in a child's behavior, along with empathy and compassion, but I again gently state - how much can schools truly do? If there are systemic issues (see poverty) and city cultural issues (violence), how much of that can schools negate?
This is why I get upset when people like Bill Gates say just a great teacher will solve a child's problems or it is said that if you raise issues like poverty that you are saying a good education for a child has to wait until poverty is solved.
Nope, we have to work on all these issues at once. And no one gets to point the finger at schools and tell them to solve everything. Not only is it not fair, it can't be done.
It's a very difficult question.
On a different topic about California public education, Salon had a good article back in April about how California bucked the ed reform script.
Instead of taking massive budget cuts to public schools, California is flowing more money into schools and has taken steps to ensure school funding is more equitable. Instead of tormenting teachers with shoddy evaluations, many California school principals are resisting the policy of using standardized test scores to judge teacher performance. And the state recently refused to include a teacher evaluation system based on student test scores in its application for a waiver from the mandates of No Child Left Behind laws.
Although the state is implementing the Common Core, the adoption has proceeded relatively problem-free. Recently two education experts that don’t always agree – Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond and Paul Hill of the Center on Reinventing Public Education – took to the pages of The Hill to declare the Golden State had reached a satisfactory “consensus” to “education accountability.”
What’s going on in America’s “Left Bank?” Could it be that California is solving the raucous education debate? Has the state found an alternative to the “reform” path that has created so much discontent elsewhere?
- Under Governor Brown, California has adopted an alternative approach which relies much less on testing. The California model believes educators want to do a better job, trusts them to improve if given proper support, and provides local schools and districts the leeway and resources so they can improve.
- A fairer measure would be whether the state scores are growing. When you look at NAEP results for 2013, California’s growth in eighth grade reading scores was the top in the nation, getting close to the national average despite high poverty and second language levels and ranking near the bottom in per-pupil expenditures. Scores in eighth math grade growth were also strong, being among the top five in the nation. In the meantime, when you look at national NAEP results since the Test-and-Punish regime became firmly ensconced, scores have been virtually flat since 2007 and 2009.
- Other districts in the nation such as Montgomery County, MD or states such as Massachusetts, which eschewed Test-and-Punish and have high NAEP scores, offer further proof of the validity of a Support-and-Build approach.
- But why has adoption of the Common Core been so fraught with controversy and anger in many places?
Many states botched the implementation of Common Core by moving too fast and tying Common Core to harsh accountability systems. The first thing we did in California was to divorce Common Core from heavy test-based accountability. We wanted instruction, not testing, to drive the effort and for Common Core to be a catalyst for collaborative efforts to improve instruction at the school site.
- Also, whenever a nation or district has gone to a broad choice
system, performance has actually gone downhill. A generation ago Chile
shifted to a voucher system and the country plummeted in international
assessments. Same thing happened to Sweden.
In the U.S., at the district level, Milwaukee has had school choice and vouchers for 20 years and remains one of the lowest scoring urban districts.