Almost to the Point of Being Ridiculous

Remember that column I linked to at the Washington Post written by the Dean of Education, Leslie T. Fenwick at Howard University?  She said:

"Mayoral control, Teach for America, education management organizations and venture capital-funded charter schools have not garnered much grassroots support or enthusiasm among lower- and middle-income black parents whose children attend urban schools because these parents often view these schemes as uninformed by their community and disconnected from the best interest of their children.

Indeed, mayoral control has been linked to an emerging pattern of closing and disinvesting in schools that serve black poor students and reopening them as charters operated by education management organizations and backed by venture capitalists. While mayoral control proposes to expand educational opportunities for black and poor students, more-often-than-not new schools are placed in upper-income, gentrifying white areas of town, while more schools are closed and fewer new schools are opened in lower-income, black areas thus increasing the level of educational inequity. "

  • Let's see what's happening in Philadelphia (this from the Black Youth Project):
Pennsylvania’s School Reform Commission voted on June 1st to close 23 Philadelphia Public Schools, nearly 10 percent of the city’s total.
Additionally, due to a $304 million debt, students will return to school in the fall without many essentials; including books, papers, clubs, assistant principals, etc. Nearly 3,000 people will lose their jobs.

Meanwhile, the city has recently begun work on a $400 million prison project, said to be “the second-most expensive state project ever.”

81 percent of students impacted by school closings are black, even though they make up only 58 percent of the population.
  • What's happening in Chicago?
They are closing 50 schools, mostly in the poorest black neighborhoods, to "save" money.  And now they are going to give close to $100M in public funds to the private school, DePaul University, for a new basketball arena.  (DePaul's basketball team is 47-111 over the last five years and the arena is nowhere near the campus.)   
  • In D.C. (via The Washington Post)?  (It's actually kind of funny because the City Council is wrestling with what to do but the mayor has the power to control the chancellor(and who's on first).
D.C. Council member David A. Catania plans to announce wide-ranging legislation Tuesday that could substantially reshape the city’s public education system, as he seeks to increase funding to educate poor children, give more power to principals, change the city’s school lottery system and end social promotion of children who are performing below grade level.

Here's how Schools Matter reads what he wants to do:
2. Accountability : Allows the chancellor to open charter-like “innovation schools” free from certain city regulations and, if teachers agree, union contracts.
"That’s right, Catania is on the Rick Hess train of innovative innovation! And it comes with a heaping pile of (wait for it) accountability! But this isn’t your typical charter school reform idea; it is “charter-like” and it is innovative!"  Staggering to think that after all these years of public education, that no one has been innovative enough to call for innovation schools as a mechanism for accountability.

"Catania produced the legislation during the past three months with the help of outside law firm Hogan Lovells, whose work has been funded with private donations. The lead lawyer working with Catania has been Maree Sneed, a former Montgomery County principal who has taught education courses at Harvard University and served on the board of Teach for America.

Who knows more about education than privately funded law firms?"

"Part of Catania’s innovative ideas, however, appear to lack innovation as they include some of the ever-popular Florida formula for punishing elementary and middle school children by imposing the also ever-popular grade retention:
In those meetings, Catania demonstrated a desire to hold students and adults accountable for their work. He is seeking to repeal a regulation that prohibits most students from being held back. Instead, he would allow principals to decide who should be promoted, a proposal likely to be controversial in a city with low proficiency rates.
Unless a principal recommends otherwise, third- through eighth-grade students would be held back if they fail to pass certain classes. The legislation calls on principals to notify parents mid-year when their child is at risk of being held back and to prepare a plan for helping that child catch up. Children who are retained would be required to attend summer school unless their parents seek a waiver.
 And last of all:

Everything we’re doing here, I might have it completely wrong,” Catania said. “But at least I’m trying.”
"Innovation, it seems, is just about the trying. Being right doesn’t matter in innovation as long as you are trying.

I have to wonder if there is any room in innovation for having that same attitude about teachers or students? Hmmm."

My final word?  All this "innovation" and "reform" and what are we really building?  Arenas and prisons.  


Anonymous said…
Oh, Melissa. You're just defending the status quo!

(C. "Big Girl Pants" Korsmo, citing M.Rhee, Ed Reform talking point number 142)

Unknown said…
Ah, the status quo:
As in Status Quo (noun): (NOTE: Please do not be confused by the Latin definition of these words; in Reformy Quasi-Latin they have a different meaning.) The Status Quo is the situation in the present moment as observed by a Reformer who has arrived in medias res like a deus ex machina with a curriculum vitae full of plutocratic bona fides. Ergo, to Reformers, all that matters in determining the Status Quo is a tabula rasa snapshot of a given moment in time without regard to yesterday or tomorrow, context or content. According to Reformers, the cure in toto for the Status Quo (which is always, to them, the worst-case scenario) is a de facto ad hoc doubling down on the same policies and in vivo experiments that are already in place. Remember, those policies were put in place to fight the OLD Status Quo. The new Status Quo is more Status Quoier, so we need MORE of the same policies to create a NEW Status Quo to fight, ad infinitum…ad nauseam. Got it? (From the Reformy to English Dictionary, Part 1)
Anonymous said…
I am not deep into the reform debate but I have lived in both DC and Seattle. And if you compared DC schools and Seattle schools five years ago Seattle looks like one seriously functional unit. The dysfunction, cronyism and pure laziness of the school board was unparalleled. Kids would routinely get their textbooks months into the school year - just one example. I don't know if Rhee was the right person to do this but someone needed to knock some heads - hard. One problem with "reform" is people equate cities- a similar approach in a semi functional environment like seattle, where many good programs are in place, is a recipe for education disaster.
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