Common Ground

I have been reading a lot of Education Reform material this week. Some of their blogs are even busier than ours. When I read things by the more responsible and less hysterical members of that community I see a lot that makes sense to me. In fact, I see a lot that I could have written myself.

I also read a lot of stuff that makes no sense at all.

So let's try to sort through this and determine if we can't find some common ground.

Education Reform have two primary agenda items: charter schools and "teacher quality". I can't support either of these, but I understand their concerns. Perhaps their concerns can be addressed through some more responsible structures than the ones they are proposing. They also seem to be deeply interested in education technology, as am I, but, again not in the same way as the more extreme members of that movement. There is a responsible middle there also.

Charter Schools. I have spoken with thoughtful people who support the idea of Charter Schools and can hold up their end of a calm, reality-based conversation about them. They and I have found common ground on this single point: the only difference between Charter Schools and regular public schools is that Charter Schools are free of district-level interference. Charter schools are not a cure for bad teachers, bad principals, bad students, bad culture, or bad families. For all of the talk that piled on top of Charter Schools, everything from union-busting to innovation, the only real element that defines a Charter School is freedom from district level mismanagement. They are not a cure for bad district management, but a path around it.

How does district management go bad? It goes bad when it misunderstands its mission or suffers from mission creep. Seattle Public Schools is a prime example. Rather than running a lean, flat management structure, Seattle Public Schools has a bloated administration full of Directors, Executive Directors, Assistant Directors, and Project Managers. All of them pull down six-figure salaries and have highly paid staff as well. Someone seems to have forgotten that no one in the JSCEE does anything that teaches students.

The central administration should only have three narrow missions and they should hold themselves only to those. They should take care of all of the non-academic elements of operating the District (transportation, food service, HR, budget, finance, legal, enrollment, facilities, purchasing, etc.). Seattle Public Schools has recently reformed these operational departments and made a lot of improvement. More improvement is possible. With regard to academics, the central administration should only have a few curriculum folks to set the required content (the knowledge and skills that students are expected to acquire) for subject and grade, to facilitate collaboration among teachers across the district, to provide a bit of subject-area specific coaching and consultation to teachers, and to consult on the selection of materials and professional development. The District should similarly have experts for special education, ELL, advanced learning, intervention, and other special needs populations. District level teaching and learning department should not be a lot of people. Seattle Public Schools is trying to do too much here; they issue mandates instead of advice. That needs to stop. What needs to start, however, is a critical role of the central administration which is completely absent in Seattle Public Schools: quality assurance. The District doesn't intervene when schools spiral down. Or, if they do intervene, they make things worse by more tightly enforcing compliance with a system that doesn't work. Real quality assurance would look a lot different.

What would schools look like if they didn't have to follow District academic mandates? Could they re-form their classrooms to provide more individual instruction for the students who need it while overloading other classes? Could they extend their day, week or year? Could they spend some of their budget on providing the sort of enrichment needed to fill the opportunity gap? I find it very hard to believe that teachers and principals, given the authority to do as they like, would follow the industrial model of age-peer classes of thirty students all getting the same instruction in the same way at the same time.

Charter Schools represent an effort to get out from under the heavy-handed academic mandates that fall down on schools from the District level. They are also an effort to provide some quality assurance through non-mandatory enrollment. I get that. I see that. But that only evades the problem; it doesn't address it. It provides a helicopter rescue to some children and abandons the rest of them to their doom. I can't support that. If the Education Reform folks see bad district management as the problem, then let's see them talk about that and take action on that. They never talk about quality of the work done by district administrators. They don't cast district administrators as the villains of their "documentaries". They don't propose legislation to improve the evaluation of district managers and make them more accountable.

Teacher Quality. All of the talk about teacher quality needs to stop until we can know what we are talking about. The Education Reform folks talk about it like there is some universally acknowledged measure of teacher quality, that teacher quality can be quantified, and that all teachers can be ranked. That's simply not true. Without that - and they are without that - nearly all of their teacher quality talk is empty. I don't dispute the truth that there are some teachers who should either get better or get gone, but it is the principal's job to identify them and take action. If there is a bad teacher in a school then there is a bad principal there as well. Besides, I think that "teacher quality" is over-rated. The Education Reform folks like to go on about how critically important it is, but let's remember that they can't identify the quality teachers so their data about their impact is meaningless. Moreover, we all know that the determinants of student achievement are dominated by home-based influences.

A more fruitful discussion would be the evolving role of the teacher. We no longer need teachers as the dispensers of information. There is a shift from the "sage on the stage" to the "guide on the side". The teacher should help students find information, put that information in context, make sense of it, make connections to it, and work collaboratively with other students in the class. Now that technology can do a MUCH better job of dispensing information, the teacher can delegate that work to the technology (whether print, video, or electronic), and focus instead on the work that only the teacher can do. It is a poor teacher who simply reads the textbook aloud at the front of the class. The teacher should engage the higher order cognitive skills, respond to individual student needs, build a positive culture in the classroom, foster social skills and collaborative skills, and motivate. Shouldn't those be the measure of teacher quality?

As we think about the determinants of student achievement, the role of motivation looms large. Teachers, therefore, should focus a lot of their time and effort on motivation. Teacher quality, if there is such a thing, is largely a measure of how well they can motivate their class.

Education Technology. When responsible people discuss education technology they are thinking of things like flipped classrooms and hybrid programs in which it is teacher AND technology, not teacher OR technology. The good idea is to identify the few - and there are just a few - things that the technology can do better than the teacher and delegate those tasks to the technology and to allow the teacher to focus on the things that only the teacher - a real-time, present, interactive, responsive, reactive and pro-active, creative, improvisational professional with a relationship with the student - can do. Technology is great for teaching skills and building them. It's great for providing students with individualized instruction. It's great as a source of information. Social technology is improving, but I wonder if it can ever compete with collaboration in the real world where we have tone of voice, a huge catalog of non-verbal communications, and, for lack of a better term, vibe. See, I can't really communicate it this way, but you know what I mean.

The Education Reform folks aren't winning us over by yelling at us or accusing us of supporting an entrenched status quo, and we are not winning them over by accusing them of segregation, privatization, or union-busting. I believe that we can engage the calmer, more reality-based members of that movement and find common cause with them. Speak kindly to them about what they hope to achieve with charter schools. Ask them what a charter school can do that public school cannot do. Explore their ideas about teacher quality. Ask them what a great teacher does and ask them if those practices can be defined and measured. Understand how they want technology used in a classroom and refer it back to their understanding of what a great teacher does and how well technology can do it.

Am I making any sense at all?


Sahila said…
I am sad you miss the bigger, political picture, Charlie...
Sahila said…
here's an article relevant to this discussion:the trouble with elites not having skin in the game
Chris S. said…
Really nice post, Charlie. Gave me 2 thoughts.
1) It might help for those responsible people on both sides to consider a risk-benefit analysis. I agree charter schools have potential benefit, and a minority of them have shown it. I also see considerable risks - including the adequacy of whatever accountability structure there is outside of district control, in shutting down in the middle of a cohort's education, etc. For there other planks, there isn't really enough data to do the analysis. That's risky.

2) But they will say, how about the desperate students? Well, how about a "neighboorhood charter?" Let them be free of district automony (and Arne Duncan for that matter) but let them take everyone in their area. No counseling out, no sending them back to public school. This is fairer to students, and then the "comparison to public schools with similar demographics" might even be valid. FWIW, this would be possible with Creative Approach Schools (a neighborhood school can apply but they must remain a neighborhood school.)
Disgusted said…
Still looking at the irony. Reformists want top heavy administration, micromanagement of teachers etc. Then, they want charters to free themselves from administration. I don't get it.
Sahila said…
Charli9e - I really dont think that the people funding ed deform are altruistice in their intentions:

Michigan Uni research assistant: I was fired for trying to unionise staff... stop unionising or else
Patrick said…
Charlie, I think there's also a small but important minority who believe that anything the private sector does is automatically better than anything the public sector does. I think these people are the victim of 40 years of right-wing propaganda, but they do exist. To them, it doesn't matter if charter schools on the average produce no better test scores than public schools, or that they cost more, or that some of them are fraudulent and because of the deliberate lack of oversight it's very hard to do anything about the fraudulent ones. The only thing that matters is that they're not public.
Kristin said…
Thank you, Charlie, for looking for common ground.

I agree with everything you say, and hope that more of us can talk to each other without resorting to name-calling, bumper-sticker catch phrases, or mockery.

Your points about charters as a way around district mandates is excellent, and worth all of us taking a closer look at.

Anonymous said…
This is why the direction of LEV these days under Chris Korsmo is so disturbing. This is why the news that LEV founder Lisa Macfarlane bailed to "Democrats" for Education Reform is so dismaying.

Instead of looking for common ground, the groups are laser focused on pushing as their top agenda perhaps THE most contentious issue (charters) that they could pick.

It's sad.

There is an comment chain on this issue on the LEV blog. People might want to add to the discussion?

Charlie Mas said…
Sahila, I'm not really wearing rose-colored glasses. I don't claim to share common ground with everyone in the Education Reform movement. Some of them are truly horrible people who have only their own narrow self-interest in mind. I acknowledge that.

At the same time they are not all in league with the devil. Some of them actually are sincere folks who want to improve public education. They may not have thought the issues through very well or they may not share your well-founded concerns about their colleagues, but they are not in it for their own gain.
Jack Whelan said…
@Chris--There's no need for neighborhood charters when other alternatives for autonomy and innovation are available. That's something that has been available historically in the alternative schools, which are getting renewed life with the "creative approach schools", assuming the SEA rank and file vote for it next week.

@Sahalia--Finding common ground means conversing with people who are persuadable but who are leaning toward positions that you disagree with. I think your point is that the people who are pro ed reform are either rigid ideologues or have self-interested hidden agendas that render them unpersuadable, and that any effort to talk with them is a waste of time.

I think that Charlie is pointing out that there are also many people who are decent, sane, and honest but who are also persuaded by the ed reform talking points.

Their talking points would not have any power if there was not some element of truth in them. The task then is to take seriously whatever that truth might be and show how there are better ways to understand it and act on it. Sane people who want real answers can be persuaded by good arguments. It's those people about whom Charlie is talking.

Regarding charters, the truth is that top-heavy central bureaucracies here and elsewhere have not responded effectively to real problems throughout the district, but especially in south-end schools. So it makes sense for parents to want another choice that is free from downtown constraints. Charters are a solution to that problem. Finding common ground means acknowledging the the problem is real, and then exploring different options for solving it, and in Washington State it possible to make the argument that there better solutions than charters that solve a real problem because the deliver the same benefits without many of the problems that come with charters.
anonymous said…
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anonymous said…
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anonymous said…
I agree with just about everything Charlie wrote! And thank him for having a rational and coherent conversation about charters.

The only thing I'd challenge him on would be this statement re: charters "It provides a helicopter rescue to some children and abandons the rest of them to their doom. "

Before standardization alternative schools had a fair share of academic and pedagogical leeway here in Seattle and they were free to "experiment" with non-conventional methods, use new pedagogical approaches, use their own materials, etc. We watched as they forged new ground - and we watched as many of the things they tried "caught on" and eventually became mainstream and widely accepted best practices at our traditional schools.

I see charters as the new alternative schools, forging the roads that alts once forged.

Charlie is correct in that right now only a few kids get the benefit of charters, but my hope is that the things that charters are doing and trying now, that prove to be successful, will eventually become mainstream, best practices, used in many schools across the country.

grousefinder said…
Re: Education Technology

The problem with relying on technology to support skill development or the transfer of information/knowledge is that the content material is generalized to the consumer (i.e. teachers, procurers, etc.) For a teacher to customize content for his/her classroom requires both the skills and time that most teachers do not possess. Therefore, teachers become mere facilitators of technology driven materials that would otherwise be taught the old-fashioned way – pen, paper, and book.

The implementation of Educational Technologies into classrooms on any larger than current scale must come with a retooling of the workforce in the development of a) content driven applications, and b) visual information display techniques (ala Edward Tufte – See “The Visual Display of Information,” et al -

The era of the PowerPoint lesson is over (if it ever really started). What teachers need to learn is how to make the most compelling displays of information possible using digital media in a classroom setting. The current suite of educational applications available to mass consumers is generally “eye-candy” rich (the hook) and content poor.

Here are my suggestions:

1. All classroom teachers must be videographers and producers (Mac platform is preferable)

2. All teachers must be application developers. That is, they should be able to create a user interface that is content driven to their current classroom lessons and consistent with State Standards.

3. Application developers (teachers or manufacturers) must learn that “less is more” when designing a visual interface for students. Educational software developers use video gaming visuals as a marketing tool. The lesson gets lost in the distraction.

Charlie’s statement about the “vibe” is spot-on. Technology cannot replace teacher/student interaction…it should only enhance it.
Charlie Mas said…
I envy FBF's optimism.

In truth there are some things that charters are doing and trying now which have proven successful just as there are some things that alternative schools do that have proven successful. We don't need our own charters to find out what those things are. We can learn about them from charter schools in other states.

The problem is that these practices, no matter how successful, have not become mainstream. They have not been adopted by other schools.

How many times have we heard school district officials talk about duplicating successes? TOPS is a success, but where is TOPS II? I don't see it.

Yes, they have duplicated the language immersion program at JSIS, to a limited extent. They have also duplicated Montessori, to a limited extent. KIPP is repeatedly held up as a model of a successful charter, but we have not seen anyone introduce KIPP style instruction and culture in any of our schools, have we?

The closest that I've seen to the adoption of a successful charter is at Queen Anne Elementary. I'm not saying it never happens, but it is the exception rather than the rule.
David said…
Great point, Charlie, that charters treat the symptom by bypassing the district administration rather than the fixing the problematic administration.

What I don't understand is why we cannot find common ground on that. You would think it would be uncontroversial that the SPS central administration needs to be deeply cut and its mission scaled back. You would think that the charter school supports and reform movement would oppose board members and superintendents who try to centralize and try to increase the size and power of administration. But I see no evidence of that, and, in fact, see a lot of the opposite. Any idea why that might be the case?
RosieReader said…
FBF - -well said and thanks for posting.

I have long felt that some of the "cons" of charter schools can be solved by changing the definition -- for example, if I were writing the bill I would not allow private, for-profit entities to establish charter school.

There are other "cons" out there, sure, but I believe those are outweighed by increasing parent choice. Parents should be able to choose an educational environment that fits their family. Even if that environment results in test scores or graduation rates that are lower than the average. As a parent, I might care less about those test scores and graduation rates than about other aspects of education which are embodied in an "out of the mainstream" educational environment.

We chose an alternative school for our kids for K-8, and never looked back. Yet in the 12 years my kids have been in SPS there have been no new alternative schools created. I see allowing charter schools (carefully defined) as a way to create a new blossoming of alternative choices in Seattle.
Anonymous said…
Common ground only if you seek it and really work toward it. QAE works just like Mercer because of the people there. The school has staff who collaborate, are supportive of one another, experienced, enthusiastic and focused. The school is not perfect, but works because there is trust and infectious energy in the building. Amazing what you can do when there is trust and collaboration. These things aren't something you can legislate or charter. A pity.

Just caught a show on Finnish Education on Dan Rather Reports and what caught my attention on the much touted Finnish system was what the principal and teachers said. They all mentioned the key to their success is the amount of work and time they put into establishing trust and collaboration so that teachers have the freedom and support to practice successfully. Teachers are CONSTANTLY EVALUATED through self evaluation, peers, and supervisors. NOT by standardized test scores. Neither are their students.

My 5th grader wrote an essay recently. Her topic was on education and the 4 things she wanted to change to benefit her learning.

1. Smaller class size. How can a teacher teach you if they can't get to your question or doesn't know your name or your needs? (How can we compete with class size of 20 with not just 1 primary teacher, but a 2nd teacher who walks around to help out.)

2. Longer recess/lunch time. Time needed to eat, play, properly, unwind, be active. (Finnish school has a 15" break in AM, and a 75" break for lunch/recess and school ends at 1:15PM for primary schools. My kids LOVE, LOVE it!)

3. Reduce summer vacation time, offset that by increasing the time of school year breaks. Long summer vacation makes it tough to remember things you've learned ("unless your parents make you do some studying.. GROAN!") Longer breaks during the school year means more time off for family travels, holidays, and less time missing school.

4. Less homework and more meaningful homework. Wants more active learning in school including more hands on projects and more hands on experiments. Homework should reflect what is being learned in school.

Funny thing, as I watched the Rather report, much of what was being practiced in Finnish schools to 9th grade was pretty much what my child wanted in her school. There is much more of course because it is harder to get into Fnnish "teacher college" than to get into med schools. Their teachers are well trained, supported, valued, and trusted. Their administration is tiny. (For a hysterical comparison, look at the ratio of the number of students: administrators in Finland with LA public school system.)

Anonymous said…

I'd love to see ideas modeled on flow charts - how many steps & tasks will it take to implement each idea? I'd love to see each step and task costed out in time to execute. I'd love to see dollar estimates of the cost of that time.

Maybe then, after we figure out what ideas cost in time and money, we could prioritize?

Now, I'm going to do a little of what the reform myth makers do - I'm going to take 1 example to make a bigger point, only my point is accurate. Eastman Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy today. Most American corporate management over the last 3 decades have been a mix of parasites and plundering pirates. The public sector managements have been consistently incompetent, and paid far less.

What do the string pullers of reform offer, other than lies?

Charlie Mas said…
There was a perfectly dreadful piece in Crosscut today by David Brewster in which he threw a little tantrum at the idea that the "new" board might indulge in some kind of micro-management of the superintendent.

Where was his horror and outrage as the previous superintendent micromanaged teachers?
Anonymous said…
Two important, informative snow day reads:

KIPP Attrition Rate Study


TFA insider says "vote no" on TFA.

Anonymous said…
"In truth there are some things that charters are doing and trying now which have proven successful just as there are some things that alternative schools do that have proven successful."

But, my impression is that most of the things that things that charters do that are successful cost money (well or require free labor) or removing students ("counseling" out).

My take on why I think it's pretty much impossible for me to find common ground is that though I might agree, for example, that a longer school day and required parent involvement might improve outcomes for disadvantaged students, I think the charter solution isn't implementing these solutions, but implementing them in a way that exploits those working in the classroom. On one hand, we could support such a solution "for the children." But, I think it's an unsustainable solution.

I also strongly believe that counseling out and self-selection end up playing a significant role. I know some studies try to control for those effects, but am not completely convinced.

Also, I think some of the models for improvement will fair when one tries to scale them up.

Ebenezer said…
I supported charter schools way back when, before the results started coming back. I agree with Charlie that there are some reasonable people arguing for charter schools, and I think the more they learn the dismal results, the more will turn against it. Those are the people you can reach with logic. On the other hand, I'm dismayed how many of the charter boosters seem averse to discussing actual data, and resort to personal attacks.

Charlie's points about the HQ disconnect is spot on, also. I don't think it's unique to Seattle Schools to have a HQ lacking in teaching experience who serve a bloated bureaucracy. I see it in some Federal bureaus where the staff outside the Beltway, who have actual program experience, are looked down upon. It doesn't happen in well-run organizations.

dreamer, thanks for the summary of the Rather Report on Finnish schools. The Atlantic had a very good analysis of Finnish schools last month, and debunks some of the myths about them that reformers don't like to discuss:
Anonymous said…
Lots of thinking here. I think you contradict yourself in the first couple of paragraphs where you want seaner admin but then list so many positions that it defeats the "leaner." Those are not all needed positions. Principals can take care of many of them. So can good community oversight where that is possible.

There is a shift from the "sage on the stage" to the "guide on the side." That's a new one for me and I love it! That is exactly what teachers should be doing. One of the immediate problems with it is that MAP assesses more knowledge than thinking. I've been spending the snow days really reading the map RIT levels wherein they tell each point tested. I would be interested to hear from other teachers what they think about that. Of course, I'm reading the primary stuff so maybe the 3-5 is better.

As a teacher, I've put an alternate schedule including longer days and a longer year on the table since I started teaching. Our kids are expected to operate at twice the level they were even twenty years ago and yet we have to do it in the limited school day and school year? Yet, many teachers do not want change. Many families - esp. in the higher SES population - are against it. I see no reason that neighborhood schools shouldn't set their own hours, days and year. Perhaps busing needs to be worked out by commuities. Childrens' schedules and family vacations would have to be modified.

(As an aside, I'd love a 7 or 71/2 hour day four days a week, 3 1/2 hours on Friday and then the afternoon open to prepare for the folowing week. But, that's me. Prepping for current teaching expectations is impossible.)
(to be continued)

Anonymous said…
As for curriculum, when I taught at a school that was a busing destination for very poor Holly Park kids, the simple act of reading aloud a lot turned the key into motivating them to want to read. Our current schedule gives lip service to read aloud but decreases time for it immensely. My success with at-risk kids was acknowledged at my school.

Teaching is inspiring children to learn. To want to do the work of learning.

Please read this from Huffington POst today:

Crisis In Chester Upland: Putting Private Profits Above Student Success

I am one of those who believes there is an effort in this country to remove all "socialist" support for the people There is money to made in turning everything into profit and that's where we are headed.

I hope you read it. I sometimes think we are redirecting our efforts to small offshoots of the bigger problem.

And, Charlie, I think those who support reform and charters are honestly propagandized more than truly informed.

Anonymous said…

My first job in high school was with Eastman. I have been loyal to that company ever since. They valued employees like nobody else. But they didn't keep up. Quality but complacency? I don't know. I'm so sorry. Like a death i the family for me.

CT said…
An assumption is made here that charters are doing innovative things. I've been in quite a few charters in both Arizona and Utah, and believe me, there's been nothing innovative going on in their classrooms. They are the traditional classrooms, oftentimes moreso since they frequently have untrained people as teachers who go with what is safe - the direct instruction mode. One charter school I visited in Utah was using 30-year-old curricular materials - the basal reader series I used when I was an elementary school student - because the principal got a "deal" when one of the school districts was dumping their outdated surplus book depository inventory in the dumpster.
As for management - well, I've heard enough horror stories about charter school management (missing funds, schools closing their doors midway through the year, ignoring parental concerns, teachers not getting paychecks for 3 months, etc.) - that I don't see any advantage to moving to that system. I'd rather work with what we've got and fix it than introduce a shell game and spread scarce resources even thinner.
Anonymous said…
Sorry - one more! @zb: charters take advantage of labor. That's part of my concern about the bigger societal problem.

Anonymous said…

The two bills currently before the legislature (HB 2428 and SB 6202) allow only nonprofit corporations to be charter applicants. Thus, the bill you would write is possibly the bill before the legislature.

These bills would allow, I believe, KIPP to do business in Washington State. If KIPP is what you want in Washington, then so be it. But I think it would be wise to take a closer look at KIPP before advocating nonprofit charters in our state.

In the meantime, HB 1546, passed last year, does much of what charter advocates want without the cons of having nonprofit corporations such as KIPP doing business with taxpayer moneys.

Anonymous said…
my forgotten continuation...

As for curriculum, when I taught at a school that was a busing destination for very poor Holly Park kids, the simple act of reading aloud a lot turned the key into motivating them to want to read. Our current schedule gives lip service to read aloud but decreases time for it immensely. My success with at-risk kids was acknowledged at my school.

Teaching is inspiring children to learn. To want to do the work of learning.
From Huffington POst today:

Crisis In Chester Upland: Putting Private Profits Above Student Success

I am one of those who believes there is an effort in this country to remove all "socialist" support for the people There is money to made in turning everything into profit and that's where we are headed. I hope you read it. I sometimes think we are redirecting our efforts to small offshoots of the bigger problem.

And, Charlie, I think those who support reform and charters are honestly propagandized more than truly informed.

Anonymous said…

The fiscal notes for the charter bills are in. The note for the House bill appears to be more complete and puts the mature cost at $34 million per biennium.

RosieReader said…
Regarding the fiscal note -- that really underscores my strongly held belief that this is not the time to be discussing charters. Let's solve the problem of providing for "basic education." Once that nut is cracked/egg is peeled/salad is dressed, we can role out the discussion/debate of new ideas.
And Rosie, that's just plain old being pragmatic.

Is this the right time for this discussion? That's my dismay. And I sincerely mean that. The timing of it baffles me.

We are underfunding existing schools.

Bringing on charter schools will only thin the pot of money for districts (and they, too, will be underfunded). Districts, because of the number of schools they cover, can work off some costs by volume. But if they lose students, then it becomes more difficult.

The numbers coming out of Olympia - $33M by 2015-2017 - is just money we do not have. Where will that come from?

And, we have two innovation laws that are just starting (and working out according to testimony by Bob Butts at OSPI) as well as lighthouse school laws (which help schools with mentoring and guidance from schools and districts that already have STEM schools).

Why can't we allow those to work?
Anonymous said…
From Huffington POst today:

Crisis In Chester Upland: Putting Private Profits Above Student Success

I am one of those who believes there is an effort in this country to remove all "socialist" support for the people. There is money to be made in turning everything into profit. I sometimes think we are redirecting our efforts to small offshoots of the bigger problem.

And, Charlie, I think those who support reform and charters are operating from "belief" more than fact. Hard to change that.

Anonymous said…
DWE, you're right about 1546. Maybe the best thing to come from all of this is that schools will make some real changes to serve the population that is not at standard, not graduating, or not graduating without needing remedial courses at a community college. Maybe parents and teachers and whoever else does not want charter schools will make some concerted efforts to help schools serve every student.

Anonymous said…
northender -

Your Kodak story is sooooooo sad. When did you work there? ;)

I honestly do NOT know what happened to Kodak, but, based upon the last 30 years

(pst - the crap Romney did with Bain, wrecking good companies and wrecking lives, was The Game Plan since raygun was elected in 1980, PERIOD.)

my bet is that they've invested tooooo much money into fancy MBAs and fancy CON-sultants and sophisticated re-orgs ... nevermind the usual suspects of venal management who plundered.

I could be wrong ... except some variant of that story is correct for over 95% of American companies in the last 30 years, so, I'm wrong 1/20 times. yawn.

IF there was some sector of the American economy which hadn't been run into the ground, I'd be willing to give a shot. When the de-Formers string pullers show up with yet another load of doublethink - isn't it about time to call them what they are?

Anonymous said…
So, the most comprehensive study on Charters to date, the Stanford CREDO study, led by Linda Darling-Hammond who was almost the Sec'y of Ed, and qualified for the position, as opposed to Duncan, found that only 17% outperformed conventional schools, while over 40% did no better, and 33% did worse. So, comparing apples to apples, 83% of that diverted money was produced nothing of value, and in fact, produced substantially worse results, on average.

Add in the fact that charters were free from School Board oversight, and receive more money per pupil (50% to 250% more) than conventional schools, and yet muster greater gains than the "failing" schools we have and lament only 17% of the time? And which model is labeled a failure?

Seriously, are Charter proponents insane? If people want them to be free of district meddling, I can buy that, but where does this myth of Charters being so great come from?

Charters are dogs folks! Absolute, verifiable, indisputable dogs! Given all their advantages over conventional schools, Charters down right suck!

Regretfully to date, I've allowed that if people really want charters, they should have them, but I can't defend that position anymore. Given their dubious performance results and per-pupil cost premiums, Charters have proven to be distracting, money-sucking failures.

Its time to blow the lid off this scam, and let Pettigrew and Co. know how we feel.
Anonymous said…
WSDWG, Supra.
Patrick said…
Kodak is sad... Word on the street is that their researchers had digital photography 30 years before anybody else, but Kodak didn't develop and market it because it would cut into their film, paper, and photochemicals business. By the time other companies had digital photography, Kodak was too far behind to catch up.

I don't think they did particularly well in the last 10 years or so either. Kodachrome was the best color slide film in the world in many respects -- excellent color for landscapes, excellent skin tones, unmatched archival stability. Kodak was the only maker. Yet instead of pushing this advantage, they didn't even mention Kodachrome in the "what film to chose" web site or their literature. It was like a stepchild they were ashamed of. And they reduced the number of labs that developed it until only one was left, so for people who wouldn't pay an arm and a leg for overnight shipping turnaround was in the weeks for most people using it. Kodak said they were giving it up in order to concentrate on digital photography, in which half a dozen different companies have them beaten soundly in every respect.

I miss Kodak of its glory days. Kodak of the last few years has just been waiting to die.
Anonymous said…
An aside about Kodak, until a couple years ago, they subsidized a falcon residence on their tower (the Kodak birdcam). For several years I watched Mariah and Kaver raise their offspring until finally Kaver Disappeared and Mariah was vanquished by a younger female. The nest has been moved because they had to renovate the tower.

An era has come to an end.

Thanks for the information, Patrick. I did read some time ago that they could have maintained their status but made some poor decisions. Perhaps they, too, died due to decision by committee at the top, aka bureaucratic-itis.

Thanks to Sahila for her link to Gary Rubenstein's blog. That was interesting. Someone should forward it to Jon Bridge and Susan Enfield.

Charlie Mas said…
David asked a really good question:

"What I don't understand is why we cannot find common ground on that. You would think it would be uncontroversial that the SPS central administration needs to be deeply cut and its mission scaled back. You would think that the charter school supports and reform movement would oppose board members and superintendents who try to centralize and try to increase the size and power of administration. But I see no evidence of that, and, in fact, see a lot of the opposite. Any idea why that might be the case?"

Think of our own recent history. Our previous superintendent, who was a perfect darling of the Education Reform Movement, was all about centralizing authority at the JSCEE. She pushed hard for standardized texts and even scripted lessons. David is right that this is perfectly antithetical to the post-industrial education model promoted by Ed Reformers. So what's up with that?

Honestly, I can't say. I try to be diligent about not making conjecture about the motivations of others. As I often write, I don't know my own motivations most of the time, so I certainly can't claim to know anyone else's. Possible options, however, run from the Machiavellian ("We're going to make things so bad the people will beg for a revolution, then we will give them OUR revolution.") to the nuanced ("First we have to get the basics right everywhere before we can move on to variations to suit individual needs.") to the simple ("I just admire and want strong leadership.")

It does, however, present a cognitive dissonance that should be explored. I suggest asking them.
Anonymous said…
I've always believed it gets down to one word: power. We live in a time when power is being redistributed from the many to the few. Why is this so clear to some of us?

No cognitive dissonance for me. This country is immersed in it. To fail to see it is to be blind. Go back to Sahila's first post and link. Therein lies the answer.

Will we change it? I hope so. If all the people on this blog were actively protesting with the occupiers and teachers, I would have more hope.


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