Thursday, May 31, 2012

(Not at all Devious) Subversive Plan B

If the charter school initiative actually gains the signatures needed to make the ballot, and if it collects a majority of the votes in the election - two pretty big "if"s - it will become the law and we could see up to eight charter schools authorized for Washington State.

We don't know what consequences this charter school law could have for Washington State or for Seattle Public Schools. Maybe some school districts will seek to become authorizers, maybe none, maybe all. It's a wild card that could lead to some seriously uncoordinated charter school authorization. It's pretty likely that some charter school management companies, like KIPP, Green Dot, and RocketShip, will seek to establish charter schools in the state, but there's no telling if they will or not, how many schools they will seek to create, where they will seek to place them, and whether they will seek conversions. The conversion option - making a public school into a charter school - creates all kinds of unknown potential consequences. How could a district manage their capacity if an attendance area school is switched to an option school and the district loses control of the school's capacity? The "parent trigger" and "teacher trigger" element of the conversion feature of the initiative creates all kinds of potential extortion for school districts and, if that extortion fails, the possibility of reprisals. The potential for extortion also creates the possibility that districts could become significantly more responsive to organized communities and teacher corps.
I have put forward a number of possible unexpected outcomes of this law. I have also thought of a way that the WEA could try to subvert it. Let me put forward another idea, this one still subversive in the larger sense, but not necessarily to subvert the law.

In this plan, the union still takes control of the situation and manages it (lest they be managed by it), but manages it with the intention of sincerely working it instead of blocking it.

Let's say that the WEA identifies no fewer than eight schools where kids are doing less well than similar kids in other schools. There are at least eight schools in the state (possibly even eight just within Seattle) with a lot of the "at-risk" students as defined in the law and with significant achievement gaps.

Then the union and the teachers puts its unique expertise into a plan for each of these schools in which it describes how the time, money, and skills available in schools and their communities could be marshaled to greatest effect for the kids in those schools. The union would do well to review successful charter applications from elsewhere to make sure it writes the most persuasive proposals possible.

Again, the union takes this very seriously and puts forward their very best effort. This includes working to get strong majority votes among the teachers for conversion and, particularly, making early submission of its proposals so they get the full attention of the selection committee and priority for approval. It could be critical for them to find a friendly school district that will seek to become an authorizer, will quickly approve their applications, and promptly submit them to the State Board ahead of any others.

There is excellent reason to believe that many, if not all eight of the selected charter schools for the first year, would be these schools. The process for selecting approved charter applicants to move forward with creating their schools is murky, but it has elements of first-come, first served and a lottery element. It's murky.

Upon the receipt of notice from an authorizer that a charter school has been approved, the state board of education shall certify whether the approval is in compliance with the limits on the maximum number of charters allowed under subsection (1) of this section. If the board receives simultaneous notification of approved charters that exceed the annual allowable limits in subsections (1) of this section, the board must select approved charters for implementation through a lottery process, and must assign implementation dates accordingly.

Anyway, however the process works, let's presume that the union-sponsored and supported applications are approved by the authorizers and selected for implementation by the State Board of Education. Then the teachers, the union, and the communities work really hard and do their best to make these previously troubled schools great. Of course, the schools' teachers continue under contract provisions that are essentially identical to the District's CBA. After all, the union would  be on both sides of the table at that bargaining session.

Right there, all of the folks who want to make the teachers and the teachers' union the villains in the "school failure" myth would be crossed up because they wouldn't know whether to root for or against union-sponsored charter schools. That element is sweet for me.

The converted schools would show promise immediately. Within a couple years, they would show results. Then the union turns to the state- and district-level bureaucrats and asks them why they stood in the way of the innovations that the teachers knew, all along, would have helped these students. Then the union turns to all of their detractors and tells them to stuff it.

While this idea is not specifically anti-charter, it is still subversive because it show who really are the obstacles to student growth, it shows that the union and the teachers are not the obstacle, and it represents workers control of the workplace. But it is also beneficial to everyone - the students are better served, the teachers are happier and free to do their best work, and the union's reputation is polished rather than tarnished (as could happen in Devious Subversive Plan A).


Anonymous said...

Doesn't the current proposed legislation limit applications to current charter operators with a track record for working with underachieving populations? That language would cut the union out of both of your Subversive Plans A + B. (Which is unfortunate because I adamantly oppose charters in WA.)

Charter Disliker

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charter Disliker, no, it doesn't. The charter authorizer can give them extra points for serving those students and/or having a track record.

Anyone and any kind of charter can be approved. And, there's the hilarity of the final outcome if over 8 are approved in a year of a....lottery. Even the mighty KIPP can't fight that off (and I intend to ask if the public can attend the lottery drawing as they allow the public to attend lottery drawings for students in the schools).

"We don't know what consequences this charter school law could have for Washington State or for Seattle Public Schools."

Well, we don't know but we can surely see the writing on the wall.

The good would be low because we know the figures for charter success is low. There's only 8 so they would only affect a very small number of public school students (and we still have issue #1).

The bad? Huge.

Don't be fooled - this is aimed right at Seattle. That's where the population is and that's where the money is to be made.

Take 4 SPS schools off-line (made into conversion charters) AND add 4 new charters in the district. If you can tell me there will be no difference to the district, its money and enrollment patterns, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Charlie Mas said...

The track record is only required of an education services non-profit to whom the charter school wishes to outsource education services or management.

Melissa Westbrook said...

But I see something that I believe is problematic to this lottery:

"If the board receives simultaneous notification of approved charters.."

Wait a minute. "Simultaneous"?

Does that mean instantly? As in if the Board/Commission has already approved 8 themselves and, on the same day, get notification from SPS or Bellevue of others, then there's a lottery?

What if the Board approved 8 themselves and THEN gets notice a day later? No lottery?

I am also having my suspicions about the weighting of the applications towards groups like KIPP. It's pretty vague so how will they do that?

The lottery may be a red herring.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's how I'm reading the rules - and I could be totally wrong:

1. Applicants submit their applications to authorizers.

2. Authorizers review the applications. Authorizers can take all the time they want. They can choose to consider some applications ahead of others. They can choose to delay consideration of some applications. They can pretty much do as they like, but they have to disclose their rules. Each authorizer can use different rules.

3. Authorizers submit their approved applications to the State Board of Education.

4. The State Board of Education approves for implementation each approved application they receive from an authorizer in the order in which they receive them. So, if the first approved application arrives on May 1, that application is one of the eight. If three more come in on May 6, they are also in the first year's eight.

5. The State Board will approve for implementation the first eight approved applications they receive from authorizers. Once the count of approved applications from authorizers reaches eight, the opportunity is closed for the year and no more approved applications will be allowed to implement.

6. If the State Board receives the ninth approved application on the same day that they receive the eighth approved application, then all of the applications received that day will go into a lottery for the last remaining opportunities for the year. For example, if four approved applications have been received by the State Board of Education and approved for implementation by May 6, and then, on May 8, six more approved applications are forwarded to the State Board of Education, then the State Board selects, by lottery, which four of the six applications that arrived on May 8 will be among the eight applications approved for implementation that year. After that, the opportunity for the year is over.

So it is first-come-first-served, with a lottery used as a tie-breaker.

One fast moving authorizer can approve and submit eight applications to the State Board before any of the other authorizers even open their envelopes.

Maureen said...

This has probably been covered, but who (what) can be an authorizer? What are the rules governing authorizers' behavior?

Eric B said...

Are there any protections requiring authorizers to process applications in a timely manner? For example, if WEA followed Devious Plan A, could the state charter board delay approval of all of the WEA applications and fast-track a KIPP application? Seems like it would be more fair to have an Open Enrollment equivalent, where applications received by the state by a certain date are all considered on time and to have come in at the same time. If this passes, someone will have to write some administrative rules for how the charter authorizers operate.

Charlie Mas said...

The Washington Charter School Commission will be an authorizer. They must be an authorizer. They cannot stop being an authorizer.

In addition, school districts can apply to the State Board of Education to be approved as authorizers as well.

No one else can be an authorizer.

Melissa Westbrook said...

So it is first-come-first-served, with a lottery used as a tie-breaker.

So what happens if they get 10 applications in a day? Do they open KIPP's first and process it if they want them? Hmmm.

Maureen, they changed this authorizers list from the bill. Now it is School Boards and the new Charter Commission.

You can see how this could really politicize School Boards (and elections).

Anonymous said...

Anti-charter tagline and TV ads:

Do you want your school board bought by deep-pocket charter school interests? That's the future if this bill passes.

Would think this would be of concern throughout the state of WA - big and small communities alike.

And boy, I bet the charter-pushers (DFER, Stand) will HATE to have this piece of the bill publicized. Good. Who wants New York hedge funds buying their way into the market. Which is what will happen.

Charter Disliker

Charter Disliker

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. Is the role of the State Board of Education to only ensure that the "approved" (by an authorizer - either a school district or the NEW (cost) state charter board) charter plan meets the criteria under the charter law? Or does the State Board have a role in "quality control" (or political control) in selection of the "approved" plans?

And the whole "lottery" thing is ridiculous - unless the State Board is required to accept all "approved" applications up to a certain date each year and THEN have a lottery if there are more than eight applications. But if it's really just first come, first served, just say so.

And what if the State Board determines that an "approved" application does NOT meet the basic criteria. Is that plan rejected and the next in line accepted? Or does a rejected plan have an opportunity to revise and resubmit with its place held in line?

This whole thing is screwy. Or I'm just thick.


Anonymous said...

I don't understand any of this. Please, could you spell it out to me by way of example? I am trying to understand the potential impact with BEX IV vote looming. Let's say a school, for example, The World School, doesn't like how it's been treated over the last several years by the District. Let's say they have no faith, and want to take matters into their own hands. So their community talks about going charter, as a way to insulate themselves from bad math and capricious moves, and they all want to go charter. Let's say they do the paper work, using whatever appropriate partnerships, and they get approved. Then they do it, they convert to a charter school. What does that mean in practical terms? Dow it mean they can "occupy" the Meany building as a whole and reject the middle school that is suppose to come? Does it mean they can reject would be future world students? How does the balance of SPS enrollment work if a school is "taken offline " to be a charter? What if the school JSIS wants to go charter? How does SPS assign kids if that school 'doesn't exist' anymore? What if TOPS or Jane Addams does this? These are just examples to help me understand the ramifications for the system left over post-charter conversion. Thanks
--signed Clueless

Charlie Mas said...

Eric B asked: "Are there any protections requiring authorizers to process applications in a timely manner?"

Short answer: no. The authorizers have to follow the procedure that they disclose in advance that they will follow, but that procedure can allow them to process applications in whatever order they like and as quickly or slowly as they like.

Each charter authorizer will write their own administrative rules. Of course, the State Board of Education has to approve those rules, as a part of the whole authorizer's application to be an authorizer, but there is no oversight beyond that and there are no statutory requirements.

The authorizers have discretion is how they process applications, but the State Board of Education does not. The State Board must process them on a first-come, first served basis.

In response to Oompah's question, the State Board does not review the charter applications. If an authorized approved it, that's all the approval it needs. The State Board has no role in quality control over the approved applications. Except that it is the State Board that authorizes the authorizers, so they could, I suppose revoke an authorizer's authority to authorize charter school applicants if the State Board doesn't like the way they do it.

What is screwy about the arrangement is that there could be, potentially, dozens of authorizers, none of them coordinating with each other, all of them authorizing applications independently through their own process, with their own timelines and criteria. But the State Board will only approve for implementation the first eight they receive.

So if Authorizer A is fast, their approved applications will be implemented while Authorizer B's approved applications will not be implemented. Pick a prompt authorizer.

Charlie Mas said...

In the event that The World School decides to become a charter school they would have to accept any student who applied to it - without regard to that student's English language skills, and the District could not assign students to the school. In short, the school would cease to function as a Bilingual Orientation Center. I don't think it would be a good idea.

Let's pick a different example.

Suppose The NOVA Project decided to become a charter and converted. The school would be funded with all of the money that the State provides the District for the NOVA students. They would also get all of the local operating levy funding that goes to support high school students. If that works out to about $5,000 per student, then NOVA would have a $1.7 million operating budget. That's significantly more money than NOVA's current budget.

Moreover, the District could not move NOVA out of the Meany building without NOVA's consent.

Of course, NOVA is an option school. JSIS is an attendance area school. If JSIS went charter then the District could no longer assign students there. It would become an option school for assignment. And the assignment rules would be 1. sibling and 2. lottery. Students living near the school would have no advantage in admission over students living far from it.

Students living in what is now the JSIS attendance area would get a default assignment to another nearby school, not JSIS, though they could choose to enroll at JSIS if they wanted to. The timing of the JSIS assignment lottery would not have to be coordinated with the District's Open Enrollment.

JSIS would keep the Latona building, but the District could not set their capacity. The school would set their capacity independently. They could set it at any level they preferred.