Monday, March 14, 2016

Charter Schools - Flawed and More Flawed

I mentioned - weeks ago - that I had wanted to do a round-up of charter schools and their outcomes in this country.  I am always amused when people say there's just a "handful" of stories being blown up.  Just not true.

Here's we go.

I don't know how anyone missed this one - a 1st grader in a big-chain charter school in NYC getting bullied by her teacher.  Before the teacher says anything, you should look at the posture and body language of those students.  It's caught on video by another teacher who was very concerned for this class.  Horrific.  The mother of was beyond upset and yet felt marginalized and ignored by the head of the charter system.  She pulled her daughter out.
 Big news out of San Diego where "a charter school king" gets charged with a felony.   

A former San Diego County superintendent who approved charter schools that later hired his consulting firm was arraigned Friday in San Diego Superior Court on one felony count of conflict of interest, according to the San Diego district attorney’s office.

Van Zant, 53, has been a controversial figure among San Diego County educators. Long before he faced legal troubles, Van Zant stirred animosity among school districts for years as he brokered deals with charter schools to operate in their districts — often without providing the notice required by law. 
This next paragraph reminds me a lot of Mary Walker School District which is, basically, a "host" for the current Washington charter schools.
Officials from small and cash-strapped districts approved charters to operate outside of their boundaries in part for financial reasons. The authorizing districts don’t stand to lose students — or the state attendance funds that accompany them — and they receive up to 3 percent of the charter’s revenue in exchange for varying degrees of oversight and often administrative services.  
From Boston, where public school students walked out of class last week in huge numbers,to protest charter schools taking money from their schools, is this guy, Rick Holmes, comparing the concerns to a "school rivalry."  Like a Beach Boys song.

He makes fun of testimony from a public school student at a competitive high school (and who makes fun of kids?), and, wait for it - here's the secret to charter schools:
If you work longer and harder at something, you get better at it. An orderly classroom is especially helpful to children from disorderly homes.
Then there's ALEC which we all knew was coming our way soon.  From Diane Ravitch:
The commentary to ALEC’s original 1984 voucher bill states that its purpose is “to introduce normal market forces” into education, and to “dismantle the control and power of” teachers’ unions by directing money from public institutions to private ones that were less likely to be unionized.

Friedman was more explicit when addressing ALEC’s 2006 meeting. He explained that vouchers are really a step towards “abolishing the public school system.”

“How do we get from where we are to where we want to be?” Friedman asked the ALEC crowd.
Thoughtful commentary is from the Education Opportunity Network: 
The parade of toxic stories about charter schools prompted former PBS education correspondent John Merrow to recently suggest a “Wall of Shame” for the industry, as an attempt to come clean about the “harm that has befallen many students and the millions taken from public treasuries by some charter school operators.”
 The rapid expansion of the charter school industry across the country continues to be dogged by high-profile scandals, lurid news reports, and studies showing widespread corruption and fraud.
Within this story is a study about charters and money that leaves public schools.  Charters love to say this doesn't happen.
According to a recent study conducted by the Florida-based research firm MGT of America, growth of charters in Nashville have had significant adverse effects on that community’s existing public schools, as money allotted to the local school is transferred out of that school when the student leaves for a newly opened charter.

“The loss of even a single student will reduce the revenue received,” the report states, because “the reduction of a single student in a classroom will not alleviate the need to have a teacher in that classroom … In fact, the per-pupil cost for that classroom or school would increase because the fixed expenses would remain, but the revenue to support them would be decreased.”

Nevertheless, it concludes, “New charter schools will, with nearly 100 percent certainty, have a negative fiscal impact” on the school district.” (emphasis added)
From almost a year ago, great research report by The Center for Popular Democracy and The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools:  The Tip of the Iceberg; Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud and Abuse.

From California and EduResearch - Rocketship Pushes Expansion Despite Denials and Strong Community Opposition.  Rocketship is a chain of charters, mostly in Northern California.
Since corporate and tech-billionaire led foundations fund the proliferation and marketing of the schools, it’s rare for the public to hear voices expressing ground-level concerns (unless one happens to follow stoprocketship.com).
From a letter in support of denial of a new Rocketship school:
“I am a physician at a Family Medicine clinic in a low income neighborhood in San Jose, near Rocketship schools.  I see children and adults, many of whom live in this community.  

I take care of many kids who are enrolled in both traditional district school and in Rocketship charter schools.   I have been impressed with the number of children who attend Rocketship elementary schools who have presented with physical signs of extreme stress.  Some come with headaches, some with abdominal pain, two have urinary problems.  The stories are similar.  They often involve bullying with an inadequate school response or frequent punishments for inadequate performance (incomplete homework packets resulting in detention, missing lunch and recess because of academic failures, etc.). 

I have recommended that some patients seek testing for learning disabilities, but parents have told me that the school tells them they can’t have thorough testing there and they don’t have many services for children with LD so they should try a different school if they need those kinds of services.   
From Diane Ravitch about Arizona charters.
To sum it up: “They Recruit, They Skim, They Flunk Out The Weak … They are Arizona’s Top Charter Schools”
From Diane Ravitch, ACLU in New Jersey sues over charters and segregation.

From PressOhio, a chronology of Ohio's charter school scandal.

From Diane Ravitch, Texas and the "long" waiting lists for charter schools.
Charters claim they must expand because 100,000 students are on waiting lists. Woods says that recent hearings before the state senate education committee demonstrated the falsity of that claim, based on data presented by the Texas Education Agency. 

Some charters have waiting lusts, but most don’t. Charters actually have at least 108,000 vacant seats in the state. There are 250,000 charter students in the state, which is 5% of public school enrollment. About 30% of charter seats are empty. Why open more charters?
 Shades of Washington State:
By the way, if you open the link, you will see a picture of charter children demonstrating for more charters and more money. Using children and staff as foot soldiers at political rallies is now common practice for the charter lobby. Public schools are not allowed to use students as props.
My folder of charter stories?  Still full.  I'll have some the more thoughtful commentaries to come.

39 comments:

FOIA Sez said...

Randy Dorn is considering a run for governor.

Bill Kiolbasa is the CFO/COO of the Washington State Charter Association. As we know, the Supreme Court declared I 1240 unconstitutional September of 2015, and Gates provided the Mary Walker School District with a check for $2.1M to do an end-run around our democracy.

Kiolbasa and Dorn were instrumental in subverting the court's decision:

I received this document via Public Records Request:

From: Bill Kiolbasa
To: Kevin Jacka

Kevin,

I hope you had a good weekend. Attached is the MOU draft we discussed on Friday-It's been reviewed by our lawyers to ensure it is a simple MOU (nothing is binding) and by OSPI to ensure it meets their request So you want to have your lawyer review and make sure it would work for you too?

This is the document OSPI will use to get working on "fast-tracking" everything in the event that the Court signals a negative case outcome in the next couple weeks.

Thanks,
Bill

In other documents, the Washington Charter Association didn't want to be seen as being the leader of this process.





Po3 said...

Funny you mention using children and staff as foot soldiers:

http://claytoonz.com/2016/03/11/washington-charter-schools/
http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/this-week-in-cartoons-nancy-reagan-trumps-body-politics-end-of-the-road-in-florida/

It is a Seattle Times cartoon, picked up on the Washington’s Public Charter Schools twitter page.

They think it's funny.

Anonymous said...

FOI,

I think the blog authors intent is to build up a site with a reputation for facts. Part of that strategy is to vilify all insurgency, either directly or via proxy posters, coupled with eroding the district reputation and its information legitimacy. It's a common strategy used be republicans and conservative groups.

Once the above is in place, the site is then used to deliver opinions disguised as facts. I see it has served well as a mob rule soap box, but tries to have an official slant. The bloggers can do no wrong in the followers eye. Very similar to those support political hacks. If it posted on this blog then it must be true.

You can see the authors want to tell you how you should think or how your child should think if they want to attend Seattle public schools. They will tell you what curriculum should be used and how various groups deserve more than others.

I'm really surprised no one has caught this before now.

Pink eye

FOIA Sez said...

Pink eye,

Feel free to contact the Mary Walker School District and get a copy of the document which was dated Friday, November 06, 2015 @3:16PM before you make assertions.

Thanks!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, you got me - I'm a closet Republican.

Most of the information in these news stories is verifiable fact. The guy in San Diego - charged with a felony for what he allegedly did in support of charter school groups. The story out of NYC on Success Academy? Absolutely true. No one is denying it happened or that they support that kind of strictness in the classroom.

I have no "proxy" posters, just readers from around the community. I don't have to ask people to comment here.

With everything posted by any of the blog writers, we make every attempt to verify its factual accuracy (if it's not an opinion.). And naturally we take this very seriously especially when candidates for public office make claims about their background or record.

I think no one has "caught" anything before because there's nothing to catch. Most of my readers are pretty savvy. Most of them.

I will give a warning that we don't like off-topic comments; confine those to open threads.

Anonymous said...

I have a question about charter schools - how do they sustain themselves over time? Do the wealthy donors continue to cover their share indefinitely or is there a plan to make them profitable eventually? I'm just not clear on how the 'investment' is supposed to pay off.

BT

Melissa Westbrook said...

BT, I think you are asking several different questions.

How do they sustain themselves? First (and foremost), it's state funding that is attached to every school-aged child.

Next, many of them get private funding via grants. The Harlem School zone spends $23K per student and clearly that's not state funding. (I think hedge funders help that school out.) Some grants may be on-going but how long is anyone's guess. Most charters, like public schools, beat the bushes for extra money but those grants are generally one-offs.

Profit. Well, the profit comes in when charters are managed/operated by a for-profit company. Many people who start these things really don't have the skills to run them so they farm that work out. How much profit can depend on a number of factors.

From the Huffington Post:
"In other states, particularly Michigan, Florida, and Arizona, for-profit companies dominate the charter school movement. In Michigan, about 65% of the charter schools are run by for-profit educational management organizations."

"However, operating non-profit charter schools can be very profitable for charter school executives like Eva Moskowitz. Moskowitz earns close to a half a million dollars a year ($485,000) for overseeing school programs that serve 6,700 children, which is over $72 per student. By comparison, New York State Education Commissioner is paid a salary of $212,000 to oversee programs with 2.7 million students or about 8 cents per student."

Don't forget capital needs - money to be made there as well,from Forbes:

"They’re also lucrative, attracting players like the specialty real estate investment trust EPR Properties EPR -1.19% (EPR). Charter schools are in the firm’s $3 billion portfolio along with retail space and movie megaplexes.

Charter schools are frequently a way for politicians to reward their cronies. In Ohio, two firms operate 9% of the state’s charter schools and are collecting 38% of the state’s charter school funding increase this year. The operators of both firms donate generously to elected Republicans."

"In part, it’s the tax code that makes charter schools so lucrative: Under the federal “New Markets Tax Credit” program that became law toward the end of the Clinton presidency, firms that invest in charters and other projects located in “underserved” areas can collect a generous tax credit — up to 39% — to offset their costs."

It’s not only wealthy Americans making a killing on charter schools. So are foreigners, under a program critics call “green card via red carpet.”

The formal name of the program is EB-5, and it’s not only for charter schools. Foreigners who pony up $1 million in a wide variety of development projects — or as little as $500,000 in “targeted employment areas” — are entitled to buy immigration visas for themselves and family members.

Lately, however, enterprising brokers have seen a golden opportunity to match cash-starved charter schools with cash-flush foreigners in investment deals that benefit both.”

Now if you are talking about the State's investment in charters, well, we know the payoff. A few great ones, some lousy ones (that will take forever to closed) and a lot in the middle.

NO 1240 said...

I've noticed that SB 6194 does not have a mechanism to dismantle charter schools in the event of the Supreme Court ruling striking-down the law. One legislator was concerned about this issue. It would seem to me, that the legislature MUST require the Charter Commission to plan for dismantling of schools formed under an unconstitutional law.

Then, again, perhaps the privatizers don't want to go near that third rail. Perhaps the privatizers want to keep proliferating and using students to rally support and sympathy for their cause.

SB 6194 is flawed in that it does not address dismantling of charter schools.

Brian Duncan said...

Dear Gov Inslee:

This charters bill would divert scarce public funding from public education (in this new case, higher ed budget from lottery tax) to what are constitutionally and operationally essentially private schools (they don't have to take and retain all comers (including special ed, or academically advanced students, for example), are not accountable to voters (via directly elected school boards), not subject to myriad state regulations (for better or worse, these have accrued over decades of public policy decisions by legislature and courts) for public schools, and don''t have teachers unions to protect their economic well being, and engender respect, and dignity as represented professionals in our society, leaving them extraordinarily vulnerable in an already difficult, exhausting, underpaid, and much maligned, and well nigh impossible profession that serves as a last best bulwark of our democratic society.

Some charters are educationally progressive, while others are arguably abusive and extremely backward educationally (authoritarian, emphasizing rote memorization, no recognition of social emotional learning, anti bullying mandates, etc), with mixed results on standardized academic achievement tests. They are, by definition, unaccountable to the public. Likely much of the good in them, where it exists, comes from smaller class sizes, and, dedicated teachers that make use of those small class sizes, the very same things all public school students also deserve with our public dollars, not just charter students. It seems unfair, and illogical for the legislature to publicly fund small class sizes for charters, while refusing to do so for public schools. It's as though the legislature wants to convert all public schools to charters before they will consider amply funding education; in other words they seem to want to privatize public education, run them like private businesses under profit motive, just as they'd like to run all public institutions, including the government itself, even where private enterprise model may not be the best fit. This misguided privatization effort will likely not end well, and should and must be resisted by all supporters of the public education enterprise.

Save all students and their schools; bring charters back into the community of public schools, bring accountability, transparency, equity/fairness, and adequate training and ongoing professional development,certification,and respect and dignity to charter teachers through unionization/professionalization! Charter students matter, as do all public students.

To borrow a phrase from the worthy and timely Black Lives Matter (BLM), and Black Student Lives Matter (BSLM) movements... Governor. Public Students Lives Matter - PSLM - amply fund public education for all students, not just for a select few in essentially private charters seeking public funding at the expense of public education. It's a matter of fairness and supporting all students, teachers, families in WA state

Thank you.

Brian Duncan
Parent of elem and high school students in Seattle Public Schools
Former public high school science teacher
Dem PCO, 36th LD, Seattle (Ballard)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Duncan,

Your letter is the same thing as yelling All Lives Matter! to a group of Black Lives Matter protestors --- which we've seen white progressives yell at actual Black Lives Matter leaders and protestors.

Given that most of the students in the public charter schools in our state are poor students of color, your letter yells All Students Matter! at group of students demanding that Charter Students Matter.

Citizen Kane

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mr. Duncan, I disagree.

The state has not done its job for years and to suddenly say one group - a very small group - of students matter more than the 1M+ who have been waiting? ALL students matter but the full funding that will come to public school students will ALSO benefit charter school students.

From Summer Stinson of Washington Paramount Duty in a back and forth with Senator Steve Litzow:

"My counter-argument to Steve Litzow: You stated that the schools districts have known about the levy cliff since 2010, and you opine that the districts failed to prepare. The legislature has known since 2009 when it lost the McCleary trial that the state has been chronically underfunding public schools. The Supreme Court decided this case in 2012. The state has been in contempt of court since 2014, and sanctioned since 2015. And what was the legislature's meager response in 2016? To declare that it hadn't prepared enough and needed to conduct further study in order to rectify the decades old problem. I agree with you, Sen. Litzow: "Creating a situation that negatively affects students, teachers, and overall learning outcomes is never ideal." (I notice the use of the passive voice there, by the way.) The legislature has failed to fully fund education. The legislature has created the situation that negatively affects students, teachers, and learning outcomes. Thus, the legislature should enact a levy cliff reprieve while the children of Washington state await the full funding the legislature promised in bills 2261 and 2776 back in 2009 and 2010.

That the Republicans not only want to protect charter students, kick the can down the road on McCleary AND let many school districts fall off the levy cliff? Appalling.

Cheezman said...

Mr. Brian Duncan: Which of the currently operating Washington Charter Schools are you referring to as "arguably abusive and extremely backward educationally(authoritarian, emphasizing rote memorization, etc.)" Or rather, since I know the answer is "none," let me instead ask which specific charter schools from around the country are you referring to as having any of these extremely negative characteristics? (I won't give you points for anecdotes of individual teacher abusiveness; must be a school with a school wide policy of the abuses you list).

Melissa Westbrook: I want to ask you if you've visited a new Washington Charter school to see what goes on inside? I hope you have done this. I understand that just because the kids are happy, the teachers competent and the administration, teachers and staff dedicated to providing a quality education (and delivering), that this would not necessarily affect your position on Charters. That's fine; there are legitimate policy issues to argue from either side. From my perspective (and I see this occasionally echoed in a comment) you undercut the effectiveness of your arguments by generally failing to address the specific effectiveness of Charters in Washington and by generally not addressing your arguments to the specifics of the Washington enabling statutes. There are plenty of Charter horror stories around the country both recently and from the past 10+ years to keep you busy pointing them out for many blog posts. I think though that you could better service your readers if you would focus more on what's going on in this State. Instead, you demonize generally everything about Charters and the motivations of those connected with charters without considering that these might generally be well intentioned, extremely capable educators that really do have the best interests of the students in view. It seems to me that you can acknowledge such things and still maintain your policy differences with the Charter people and have a much more elevated discussion. It occurs to me, reading Mr. Duncan's letter, that your readers could be better served and that perhaps a reason that your point of view has so far lost out with the democratic process is that so much of what you and most of your readers write here wrt Charters is a parade of horribles that has little if any reality in this State. Not all of it, but a lot of it. I am of course a charter parent. I likely wouldn't be paying a lot of attention to this issue if I weren't. (I'm also a public school parent and serve on the PTSA). The enabling legislation so limits the number of charters allowed that comparing working out a funding fix to somehow causing the delay of a McCleary fix just does not ring true. My daughter in the course of this legislative session has made the trip to Oly twice, wearing her blue Save Our Schools shirt. She wrote extremely thoughtful letters to some of the electeds, met with a couple for discussion and was interviewed twice on camera. The argument that you and some of your readers put out that the charters are using the kids as pawns and that the kids are missing their education by attending these sessions rings not a whit of reality for me. The education in participatory democracy that my daughter and many of the other kids have received has been a tremendous and positive thing. Regardless of your position on Charters, I would hope you can acknowledge some of these points. And, let me know if you'd like to visit a school. : )

seattle citizen said...

Cheezman, you write that Melissa "undercut[s] the effectiveness of [her] arguments by generally failing to address the specific effectiveness of Charters in Washington."
Well, what would that be? The only metric that charters are evaluated under, as far as I know, is state test scores (oh, and graduation rates) and since only one charter (now reverted back to private, as it was a fiasco) has been in operation more that seven months we citizens have no way to judge their "effectiveness" using the one metric established by the state under the old law.

You write that "the kids are happy, the teachers competent and the administration, teachers and staff dedicated to providing a quality education (and delivering)"
How would we know? Take your word for it? How do YOU know all charter students are happy (AND happier than they were in their public school)? How do WE know all the teachers are competent? How do WE know they are all dedicated (as are most teachers everywhere, so why you call that out, I'm not sure, unless you mean to infer that they are somehow MORE dedicated than public school staff....is that your claim?)

And while of course there are those with good intentions supporting charters, there are also decades of history of those with intentions that aren't so good. There are decades of crapitude in some instances, decades of ALEC-style policy making, four years and fifty million dollars worth of Gates buying WA charters...

The democratic process that you claim Melissa has lost out to was subverted by Gates, by misinformation, by unconstitutionality, and now by shell games with public money ("it's not public money, it's LOTTERY money! nudge nudge wink wink...)

The REAL forces driving charters in WA have subverted democracy. The voters said thrice that they didn't want charters; supporters then bought the election and now play shenanigans in Oly, taking valuable time away from the million students by manipulating piles of money.

Brian Duncan said...

CK,

Point well taken; I agree that yelling All lives matter in counter to Black lives matter slogan misses the key point that Black lives in particular matter in current context of racially biased policing, have been specifically undervalued, and that needs to be recognized specifically, as opposed to "all lives".

Charter Schools Matter vs Public Schools Matter slogan analogy is inexact. There are plenty of poor students of color in public schools that are equally in need of public funding, and just a deserving as those in charter schools.

I would agree with idea that poor students of color suffer disproportionately than others in public schools, just as they do in other areas of our society. So, I can see value in the State, Feds, local districts directing focused, "extra" resources to those students as a matter of priority, in the interest of making up lost ground.

I don't think charters are a good vehicle to do so; I think public schools are the ideal vehicle for strengthening our democracy and lifting poor students of color, and others, up from poverty. Certainly public schools need improvement to succeed at these goals, and part of that is ample funding from the State to pay for smaller class sizes, and other improvements.

Brian in Ballard

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mr. Duncan didn't say it was a Washington charter school (or former charter schools as OSPI calls them.) I can venture he might have meant KIPP (very authoritarian) or Success Academy (strict and, as the video shows, almost abusive.)

I have been to a number of charter in other states. I did tutor in First Place right before it was a charter.

I will just say that four months as ANY school is not enough to say the school is creating better academic outcomes. Despite specific requests, no charter has provided real documentation for these claims. That parents and students are happy with these schools is great but it's not data.

Also, I have written - in detail, in numerous thread - about most of the charters especially as they were applying to be charters. Sorry you missed that.

The bill does not limit to charters to any fewer than the last law. And for a state just starting out, I'd hope they would limit them.

I have no issue with parents who choose charters. In fact, I had been trying to protect them from issues that arose along the way and advocated to the Charter Commission. You can see it in the minutes from the meetings. I'm the one who said there should be a rule that charters have to disclose litigation to parents. Did your charter? Did you know that the charter supporters didn't ask the Supreme Court for an expedited ruling that might have protected your family and others?

I have never said all charters are "horrible." I visited a fine one in San Diego. But, overall, it's not worth it. A whole other system of schools that mostly don't scale and, overall, don't have better outcomes? I'm saying I disagree with doing that.

Brian Duncan said...

Cheezman:

You are correct that my characterization of charters was general, based on national picture I have read about over last several years, not specifically focused on the current few operating WA charter schools. I had the Kipps academies, and the NYC Success Academies (see horror video in the recent separate thread; I think I read that this demented teacher was promoted in her school or held out as a role model; that doesn't bode well for that charter system) in mind as exemplars of authoritarian and therefore educationally backward practice. I'm not a specialist expert on charters; I've followed stories about them for several years, and I did read Paul Tough's book on Harlem Childrens Zone/Geoffrey Canada several years ago. I can believe your experience is entirely positive with your charter school so far, and I wouldn't be surprised if your experience with public schools has been less than stellar. What are the great attributes of your current charter that you would recommend be adopted by the public schools, and what might be obstacles to doing that?

You make a number of good points with which I agree, including bringing your daughter to Olympia to lobby, and encouraging her to write letters to legislators. I encourage my daughters to participate in democratic activism as well. I agree that is a very good thing to do, and clearly it has been effective for your position with most Rs, and several Ds. I tip my hat to your efforts, even as I am on the other side of the issue.

Brian in Ballard

NO 1240 said...


Diane Ravitch calls attention to Olympia:

Washington State: The Democrats Who Betrayed the Public Schools

http://dianeravitch.net/2016/03/14/washington-state-the-democrats-who-betrayed-the-public-schools/

NO 1240 said...


"Melissa Westbrook: I want to ask you if you've visited a new Washington Charter school to see what goes on inside"

I prefer to call attention to the overcrowded schools that don't get to cap enrollment and high level of homeless students in public schools.

Po3 said...

Let's talk about WA state charter schools:

Here we have some revealing information about Summit Charter in Seattle from Rep Pollet:


"Summit sounds like a great private school, with limited enrollment, low class sizes and project based alternative learning curriculum. Indeed, about a third of its students transferred from private schools; and 29% of its students are not from those communities it claims to serve, but, rather from north Seattle neighborhoods, Queen Anne, Magnolia, and East Lake Washington communities such as Sammamish and Bothell. Far fewer Summit Charter students are in bilingual education or have Special Education needs or are low income than in the surrounding schools in SE Seattle.

And this tidbit:
Note: data on Summit Sierra Charter School was obtained via a Public Records Act request I submitted to the school in October, In December, the school refused to comply with the Public Records Act, but relented when I pointed out how ironic it was that they wanted public dollars but were refusing to comply with the Public Records Act, to which they were subject in exchange for public funding. The school did not provide actual records, but a spreadsheet of demographic data, schools from which students transferred and zip codes of residence.

Read the full statement:
http://housedemocrats.wa.gov/gerry-pollet/why-i-opposed-charter-school-bailout-bill/

Melissa Westbrook said...

I still have not received my requested public disclosure documents from any charter (except one that I got today) and I asked for this information at the beginning of December. I have never had any public entity take this long and for schools open mere months at the time, it's quite odd.

NO 124o said...


Here is what one out-of state individual had to say, and this is why I am fighting:

"As the charter-mania increases among lawmakers in Washington, public school parents will find that their legislature does nothing BUT charter school policy.

Buckle your seatbelts. This is just the beginning. You’ll find public schools drop lower and lower on the legislative agenda until they’re barely mentioned.

You’ll have year-long fights over expansion, funding fights, facilities grants and that’s just the warm-up until you get to vouchers and “charter governance reform” which will then completely occupy your lawmakers for another year or two.

Meanwhile, years will go by and public schools will be completely ignored- treated as a kind of disfavored, default “back up” for the preferred “choice” schools."




Ms206 said...

No 1240,

You make an excellent point about dismantling charter schools. Here in Philly, the District has no problem closing its own schools or turning them over to charter operators as a "turnaround" tactic, but the District has to spend years trying to get some schools to close. Last school year, 2 charter schools closed because of financial mismanagement. That is the quickest way for CSs to close here in PA. It took years to close this school called Truebright Science Academy CS because the school kept appealing the decision.

Anonymous said...

Po3 quotes something that Rep. Pollet wrote "and 29% of its students are not from those communities it claims to serve, but, rather from north Seattle neighborhoods, Queen Anne, Magnolia, and East Lake Washington communities such as Sammamish and Bothell."

That's interesting. I remember reading on the "Seattle Education" blog that it was "racist" for charters to focus on this community because they weren't providing what parents at Queen Anne, Magnolia, and Seward Park would want for their children. That seems to have been an inaccurate prediction.

Maybe SPS should ask the school how it achieved its economic integration.

LisaG

Melissa Westbrook said...

I would guess controlled small class sizes would be one thing.

NO 1240 said...

Washington State Representative Mike Sells tells us about the 22 lobbyists that walked the halls in Olympia and bragging about six figure tv ads.

It is the comment section I read with interest:

Get used to it Washington. Public schools will drop lower and lower on the legislative agenda until they disappear.

It’s all charter schools from here on out, unless they move to vouchers, then it will be charters and vouchers. Session after session will be spent on “choice” schools, most of your public debate will be absolutely consumed by “choice”. Years will go by and you’ll slowly realize no one in government ever addresses public schools anymore.

That’s what happened in Ohio. 93% of the kids are in public schools and public schools are barely mentioned, other than to compare public schools unfavorably to charter or private schools.

You’ll get used to it.

http://dianeravitch.net/2016/03/16/a-washington-state-legislator-joins-the-honor-roll/

It should be noted that Stand for Children has received $6M from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation since 2014.


http://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database#q/k=stand%20for%20children

NO 1240 said...

MS206,

Thanks for your comment. I will add that closing charter schools requires legal expenditures. One district spent $750k to avoid closure. Those are dollars that could stay in the district and provide support. As the privatizers have proven to us in Washington state...they have plenty of dollars to push their agenda. Gates provided the Mary Walker School district with $150K for legal expenses and $15K to cover the cost of their PR firm- Strategies 360.

Yes, the PR firm is hired to message and make everything sound like a bed of roses.

NO 1240 said...

Clarification: One school district spent $750K to close a charter school.

Graystone charter costs Coatesville schools $1.24 MILLION to close:

http://www.dailylocal.com/article/DL/20141004/NEWS/141009929


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/17/closure-of-six-charter-sc_n_1974695.html

Closing charter schools costs dollars and language to dismantle charter schools is SB 6194 is non=existent. As well, there is no language to mandate the Charter Commission to create rules for an orderly closure in the event of an unfavorable court ruling.

Anonymous said...

LisaG, public charter school opponents have argued that public charter schools perpetuate segregation and, therefore, should be closed. When it turns out that one of the schools is actually ethnically and economically integrated, it should be closed. You can't win.

Citizen Kane

Po3 said...

Well at least I provided a link to my source. LisaG offered "quotation marks."

The point isn't about what may have been written on another blog, it is about how Summit refused to comply w/ request for public information and they are not being completely honest about who they are serving.

Personally, I could care less if students from private schools or affluent families choose a charter school. It is the lack of transparency, which allows Summit to spin their story in Olympia that troubles me.

Kudos to Pollot for daylighting the truth.

Anonymous said...

Po3, let's be clear and honest about all of this. What Rep. Pollet neglected to share in his self-righteous indignation was that Summit Sierra was not, at the time of his public records request, a public entity. They were receiving no public dollars. They were providing home-based instruction support to their families. Thus, they were not obligated to comply with his request. They did so in January and February, however. Here's a link to an explanation by Jen Wickens, regional director for Summit Schools: http://www.tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2016021209.

As for Summit Sierra not being completely honest about how they are serving, how did you get that? Here's how they describe their school on their website:

"Summit Sierra is committed to serving a diverse group of students and families in South Seattle, with a particular focus on the Southwest and Southeast communities, helping to close the significant demographic achievement gap."

Rep. Pollet states that "29% of its students are not from those communities it claims to serve..." But wouldn't that mean that 71% of the students in the school come from South Seattle? That reads to me that it's meeting its commitment to serve a diverse group of students from South Seattle. Where does it read it will ONLY serve students from this community?

Citizen Kane

NO 1240 said...

"Po3, let's be clear and honest about all of this. What Rep. Pollet neglected to share in his self-righteous indignation was that Summit Sierra was not, at the time of his public records request, a public entity. They were receiving no public dollars. They were providing home-based instruction support to their families. Thus, they were not obligated to comply with his request. "

You are grasping at straws, Citizen Kane. The Charter Commission has a document that indicates all charter school records must be archived as part of a public record.

Another individual asked Summit for records and they claimed that in light of the Supreme Court ruling they didn't have to release records.

Anonymous said...

What are you talking about, NO? The SC invalidated I-1240 and all resulting statutes and rules, including any authority of the Commission. At the time of the request, Summit Sierra was not a public entity.

And document you claim the Commission was invalidated.

You wanted the charter schools to disappear. You succeeded. They did.

Citizen Kane

seattle citizen said...

"They [Summit] were providing home-based instruction support to their families."

Hahahaha! Good one! Right! The parents and guardians were, uh, homeschooling, yeah, that's it! And...and Summit is a home school resource center, yeah! Just, uh, helping the parents homeschool, uh huh. *snicker*

Whatever narrative keeps the money flowing from taxpayers to far northeastern Washington and back to Summit....

;)

seattle citizen said...

"They [Summit] were providing home-based instruction support to their families."

Hahahaha! Good one! Right! The parents and guardians were, uh, homeschooling, yeah, that's it! And...and Summit is a home school resource center, yeah! Just, uh, helping the parents homeschool, uh huh. *snicker*

Whatever narrative keeps the money flowing from taxpayers to far northeastern Washington and back to Summit....

;)

NO 1240 said...


Summit is required to archive records until the time of the Supreme Court ruling. They are considered public records. Here is some information on Record and Retention Schedules:

https://www.sos.wa.gov/archives/RecordsRetentionSchedules.aspx

Charter schools have not disappeared. All types of rules were altered to circumvent our democracy and Supreme Court ruling. Gates and the Washington Charter Commission was there to provide an enormous amount of support. Stand For Children, WPC and LEV are working in the background.




Anonymous said...

Technically, NO, charter schools have disappeared in our state. There are programs like Rainier Prep, Excel, etc. that are operating as ALEs under contract with Mary Walker School District. But, again, they are not technically charter schools.

That will change when Governor Inslee signs SB 6194.

Citizen Kane

Cheezman said...

Hey Brian in Ballard,

I appreciated your comment in response to mine and wanted to make sure I answered your question:

What are the great attributes of your current charter that you would recommend be adopted by the public schools, and what might be obstacles to doing that?

As a preface: My family returned to the U.S., after a long european absence, for the 2014-2015 school year and my oldest daughter attended 8th grade at Washington Middle School. Washington is a pretty good school and it currently has an excellent principal. My daughter had, with one exception, pretty good to excellent teachers, yet she had a bad year that had two roots. The first was that she was a first year WMS student among an 8th grade group that had been together for 3 years. So, tough socially. The second thing was that she had been in an excellent German public school the previous 3 years and was astounded at the behavior issues and lack of respect toward teachers and learning that she witnessed in some of her WMS classes; it impeded HER learning. I don't think the behavior she witnessed was particularly egregious for a large public school, she had just never experienced it. She and I toured Garfield together. I found Garfield, as many do, a pretty great school. She saw it as more of her 8th grade year continued. We went to an info session hosted by Summit Sierra around the same time and she was determined from the first encounter that this is where she wanted to attend. She has lost none of her enthusiasm for the institution after 3/4 of a school year.

To your question: What I like about it is pretty simple. One is classes that are 90 minutes long, described as Project Based Learning. This means in part that science and math are taught together and literature/writing are taught together with social sciences (history). (my middle daughter is at WMS, in 7th grade. Her classes are 50 minutes which I expect translates into a focused 30 minutes per class). I don't know why this could not be done in traditional public schools. I'm surprised it isn't standard. Perhaps a reader here can explain that. (first of 2 posts b/c the whole thing is too long; sorry!)

Cheezman said...

(2nd of 2) Every day are 2, 30 minute blocks of time, called Summit Reads and Summit Solves. The kids can read whatever they want for 30 minutes and the second is doing math problems for 30 minutes.

I like their mentor program. Each student has a teacher mentor that, ideally is with the student for all 4 years. Students meet with mentors weekly to talk about goals and how the week and school year have gone. This regular checking in of course makes sure no student is under anyone's radar and also helps the kids learn personal accountability. Again, I see no reason why this can't be done in other public schools. Would teachers agree to this new role? I expect many of them would if it's shown effective.

Summit may (or may not) be unique among Charters in that they spend a lot of time getting the kids prepared for university, both mentally and academically. Today and tomorrow the school, all 9th graders, are visiting universities in and around Portland. This I like. I don't know why this couldn't work with other public high schools; perhaps in smaller groups. Maybe they already do it, I don't know. (historically, over 90% of Summit grads attend university).

Two final things I'll mention are Expeditions and Personalized Learning. 4 x each year, for 2 week sessions, the kids "dive deep" into two subjects of their choosing. My daughter opted for Civic Engagement and Digital Storytelling. Other options are some area of art, fashion design (both at Coyote Central), computer coding, Genocide in the 20th century and others I can't remember. These Expeditions are taught by adjuncts while the teachers spend the two weeks in professional development. The quality is heavily dependent on the quality of the adjunct. There's been some mixed reviews on this one and the school has taken steps to address and correct issues as they become apparent. Personalized learning is a Summit system developed software that allows kids to work through units and assessments at their own pace. The students' progress and work is monitored by the system and by the teachers and in my daughter's experience works well. Summit has made it clear that they are happy to provide this software to any school that is interested, for free. They are not about profit. Never have been, never will.

That's my snapshot experience. I don't pretend to be an expert on Charters generally. I don't understand why at this point there should be a huge objection to letting the Washington Charter experience play out and see what results ensue. I regularly read on this site how bad charters are. The criticisms are in several different categories and so I can't describe more specifically than the general term "bad." It doesn't seem bad for the kids. If you haven't, I suggest you take a look at RCW title 28A. It's not long and you'll see that there are a lot of constraints put on Charters in Washington to make sure that this state does NOT experience a lot of the problems that posters here highlight from other states.

Finally, FWIW, I've regularly polled other Charter parents about their level of anger at the Washington Charter Assn for being blindsided by the Supreme Court decision. Some were upset; most weren't. Even for those that were, the positive experience their kids are having outweighs this.

Over and out

(I've tried to figure out how to get rid of Cheezman, but can't. I Don't want to hide).

John Zilavy

Brian Duncan said...

John Zilavy,

Thank you for your thoughtful, thorough, and friendly reply! It's refreshing to have genuine engagement and productive exchange of views on contentious educational issues like this. I appreciate your candor and effort in explaining your perspective in a straightforward way.

These features that you describe sound educationally progressive, not backward like the Success Academy or KIPP; I can see why you are excited about it, especially relative to what I gather is a fairly traditional program at your old school (WMS), and relative to the more respectful classroom social climate in your recent German school experience. I think these kinds of alternative programmatic elements can and should be adopted in public schools! Indeed Seattle Public Schools has several so called alternative, or now called option, schools, such as Salmon Bay, Thornton Creek, Orca, Pathfinder, and NOVA high school, which have some of these same elements, and variants. But, they do it in a context of being part of the SPS system, subject to public school constraints, including the typical requirements that they accept and accommodate all students including SPED students, comply with District policies, answer to the elected school board, have union represented teachers under the District- SEA contract, etc. Mixed bag of course, they have to do (in my view too much and deeply flawed) standardized testing, never have enough PE, and never have enough staffing for smaller class sizes (though that is the point of McCLeary). I believe NOVA HS has a similar sounding mentoring program, called teacher-coordinators (COORs I think is the term). I think that's a fabulous concept, analogous I suppose, to a college professor advisor.

Some of these innovations, like blocked, integrated subject classes, grade mixing, inter grade reading and math buddies, grade looping, expeditionary learning, experiential education, project based learning, and tacking current events, social justice, and civics and citizenship education by having students study things like genocide in 20th century are badly needed innovations to engage students with relevant and hopefully empowering and inspiring curricula, and yes, better prepare them for the reality of self motivated college and university environment.

I gather your experience is extraordinarily positive with Summit Sierra to date, so that you're not seeing all horror stories that we hear about all around the Country over many years now. I can't blame you for wanting to preserve what is for your family a great experience. Would that all public schools will eventually get to be as effective as these alternative public schools, and charters like Sierra Summit; only without the charters part, would be my preference, for reasons noted. I expect neither public schools, or charter schools are inherently wholly good or bad, it depends on how it's done, and on the big picture too, of how they are funded, what are the equity issues for students, teachers, and families, and accountability mechanisms, where and how they fit into our democracy and society as a whole.

I'd rather bring better practices, like those you describe, to public schools, than switch to a charter model, which seems like a riskier model in principle (and it would seem in practice overall, though with many exceptions, as your case illustrates).

Best,
Brian in Ballard