We know that not every single one of these schools is going to succeed... It’s just not going to happen. -- SIG guru Jason Snyder via Emily Richmond
This picture of little boy in Batman t-shirt getting screened has gone viral, according to CNN. Last spring, students disrupted a board meeting by handcuffing themselves to board members' chairs.
At this past weekend's SIG conference in Chicago, Jason Snyder talked about where the SIG program is and where it heads next, mentioned that MOUs between districts and unions seem to be a interesting way to get dramatic improvements done, and generally made the whole program seem like an earnest and generally well-run endeavor. Then again, I was barely awake since it was 9 am. Here's some audio for you to pore over, courtesy of the good folks at EWA:
There's also a PowerPoint presentation that I'll try and get and post here, too. Note that my audio edit is very rough -- that's EWA head Caroline Hendrie speaking at the start, and the second voice is UofC's Tim Knowles (wearing a black turtleneck, bien sur). Snyder doesn't always talk into the microphone so you'll have to deal with that.
It's been a long time since Locke High School has been in the news (see this June 2011 LA Times piece) but it still seems relevant to me. Before the parent trigger, there was the teacher trigger that was used to wrest Locke away from LAUSD and UTLA. Before SIG, there was NCLB restructuring that allowed Green Dot to restaff the school. Before newTLA and the Gates charter-district collaboration initiative, there was AMU, the union of charter teachers (the topic of a WSJ opinion piece just this week). And before Michelle Rhee and Jonah Edelman and Ben Austin, there was Steve Barr (who's opening a new school in New Orleans next year.)
In any case, I had an hour to walk around the campus a couple of weeks ago before heading to the airport but that was enough time to get a quick sense of things and I thought some of you might be interested.
The Oakland Unified School District has just granted two elementary schools permission to convert to what they're calling "partnership schools": quasi-charters, essentially, that will continue to pay for and participate in many of the district's programs, but will also have site-level autonomy in terms of staffing and curriculum.
It's a little bit difficult to discern how satisfied the various parties are with the arrangement, which is actually a compromise between the district (which had rejected a previous charter conversion proposal) and the schools (which had appealed the decision to the more charter-friendly county). Superintendent Tony Smith is putting a positive spin on the "partnership" model, but at least some members of the school board are saying the "partnership" model was just the least-bad option available to them.
Click below for my thoughts on the situation.
I'm not particularly interested in school integration as an end unto itself (or unreasonably hopeful that we're going to have integrated schools anytime soon), but the potential for school integration to help increase achievement levels is pretty compelling and findings like the ones released by the USDE about disproportionate treatment of black kids in urban school systems makes the topic all the more worth revisiting.
Tomorrow in Washington, a trio of institutions (TCF, Fordham, and Howard University) is hosting an event on the future of integration and the release of new work by the indefatigable Rick Kahlenberg showing that at least 80 school districts serving 4 million kids have adopted measures to promote integration that fall within current law. The event is Wednesday at noon, National Press Club. Contact email@example.com to RSVP.
Included among Kahlenberg's example will likely be some of the handful of mixed-income, heterogenous charter schools like DSST, Capitol City, and Community Roots that I've been spending time at since last year. I visited Larchmont and Citizens of the World last week in LA. It's a complicated, difficult-to-pull-off approach, fraught with practical and political challenges (as well as some obvious advantages over the typical neighborhood school). I'm interested to see what Kahlenberg has to say.
Over at The Daily Howler, Bob Somerby has been on a tear recently pointing out that pundits of all kinds seem to be stubbornly indifferent to good education news. He emphasizes the shrinking achievement gap between black students and white students on the NAEP as something you rarely see mentioned, and I'd add that to the growing pile of good-but-largely-ignored news that includes rising achievement for disadvantaged groups generally and improving school safety. Bob thinks we can chalk up this news blackout to the fact that commentators have sorted themselves into "tribes", each of which dislikes the other too much to risk inadvertently crediting them with an accomplishment. I think there's definitely a lot to that explanation, but that there's also a real fear on both sides of undermining their preferred narrative. My sense is that "reformers" don't want to talk about the good news because then they'd have to acknowledge that these positive trends mostly began prior to their favorite reforms. This would undermine the narrative that the "status quo" of salary schedules and tenure is an insurmountable obstacle to progress. At the same time, I think the anti-reform crowd is reluctant to discuss the good news because it has continued in the "corporate reform" era. This, in turn, makes the repeal of NCLB-type reforms seem that much less urgent. Whatever the explanation, however, the end result seems to be that we mostly hear about how bad our educational institutions are despite the fact that these same institutions are not only improving, but are arguably the best they've ever been. - PB (@MrPABruno) (Image source)
Bill Gates talk in 2008 -- is that these pockets of promise represent both an opportunity and a challenge: how to make things better over all without steamrolling (or being steamrolled by) pockets of excellence?
“The problem we tend to run into is that the most influential and well-educated people either have their kids in private schools, or they have their kids in an enclave inside the high school that are called honor’s courses, where the teaching is pretty decent and so, if we go to a school and say, let’s change things here, they say, no way, you’re going to mess our little enclave up. All the kids go through the same front door, but really it’s a separate school inside there that’s allowing us not to be part of that insanity, and so don’t mess with the thing that works well for us. And I do think, if you want to stand up to some of the practices that are not focused on the needs of the students, you need a broad set of parents. I think we’re very weak on this point.”
I'm usually more than happy to criticize the Gates Foundation's efforts and approach, but I see this as a pretty honest, reflective assessment of a challenge that reformers are still coming to terms with.
Matt Di Carlo has a great post over at the Shanker Blog explaining why we shouldn't think about charter schools as a monolithic educational intervention given their considerable diversity. As he says, studies seem to indicate that "schools’ effects on test scores may vary less by what they are (e.g., charter versus regular public school) than by what they do (e.g., specific policies and practices)." So we should try to identify what characteristics of the best charter schools make them effective so that those interventions can be provided to as many students as possible.
That all sounds right, but I think it's worth stepping back here and remembering that, while it's true that charter schools vary dramatically in terms of how they operate, for a lot of charter school proponents it is precisely what charter schools have in common that is supposed to make them superior alternatives to traditional district schools.
#nclbwaivers Last week I told you that there were 18 districts that were big enough to participate in the NAEP TUDA program if Congress allocated funding for an expansion (and the districts agreed or could be shamed into participating). Well here's the list of districts that meet the size requirements:
Clark County School District NV
Hillsborough County School District FL
Dallas ISD TX
Duval County School District FL
Memphis City School District TN
Long Beach Unified CA
Albuquerque Public Schools NM
Fort Worth ISD TX
Mesa Unified District AZ
Denver County 1 CO
Nashville-Davidson County SD TN
Santa Ana Unified CA
El Paso ISD TX
Tucson Unified District AZ
Columbus Public Schools OH
Arlington ISD TX
San Antonio ISD TX
San Francisco Unified CA
There are already 21 districts involved in TUDA -- adding these would bring the total to 39 districts and would give the public and policymakers a much better sense of how big districts are doing in comparison to other, similar systems. Is it too late to make this an NCLB waiver requirement?
*Correction: Three of the 18 districts -- Hillsborough County, Albuquerque, and Dallas -- joined in 2011. That leaves 15 districts who are eligible to participate but don't.
Online gradebooks, master teachers, weekly PD, credit and attendance recovery -- there's nothing miraculous about what's being done at this Louisiana school profiled in a recent NBC Nightly News segment. Just a lot of hard work, and a willingness to change things up.
Race to the Top Likely to Stick Around Politics K12: Race to the Top would be funded in the bill, soon to be introduced. For the first time it would include a district-level competition, sources say.
January 7: National Opt Out Day teacherken: Posting for your information a message that is being widely distributed among some educational lists and Facebook groups (see image).
Santorum Concerned Gay Marriage Will Be Taught In Schools HuffPost: Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said he is concerned about legalized gay marriage spilling over into lessons in the classroom, during ...
U.S. school excuses challenged Jay Mathews: The percentage of resilient students in the United States is below the PISA average. Twenty-seven countries, including Mexico, are ahead of us.
Why Should We Care About Integrating Schools? GOOD (Bill Kurtz): We need to put as many resources into opening high-performing, economically and racially integrated public schools as we do into schools that focus solely on low-income students.
MORE BLOGS INSIDE
Looking back at nearly 100 school closures and turnarounds, the folks at WBEZ Chicago Public Radio and Catalyst Chicago find that roughly 60 percent of the schools brought in to replace or transform low-performing programs are doing OK or better (Level 2 or Level 1 in Chicagospeak) -- but less than 20 percent are at Level 1 and many of those are charters or other special programs.
And so, the issue of whether the replacement schools are at all comparable to the ones they succeeded is the subject of heated debate -- as is the question whether the improvements are big enough or broad-based enough to justify continuing to do turnarounds and replacements and all the upheaval and job churn they entail. (Like many other cities, Chicago operates under a state testing and rating system that is considered to lack rigor and has been changed several times over the past decade.)
To see the map and the spreadsheet click here.
It's worth remembering that it's not just protesters and bargain-hunters who get pepper-sprayed, and not just traditional law enforcement who's gotten geared up with increasingly fearsome equipment over the past decade. Some of the same things are happening on school campuses, too. There were a few days during the reporting on my book about Locke High School when I came awfully close to getting myself pepper-sprayed. One of the key events during 2009, the first year of the turnaround effort involved the use of pepper spray by security guards on a student, and I thought maybe I would get sprayed to see what it was like. I'd seen the incident firsthand, they spray of liquid and its impact on one of the biggest, most fearsome kids on campus. And pepper spray had been used during the so-called riot on campus in 2008 witnessed by the LA Times' Howard Blume, and at other high school melees around Los Angeles. The security guards at Locke sometimes leafed through catalogs full of pepper spray gear -- the things you might have seen riot police holding that look like paintball guns and don't require close contact to be employed. Have you ever seen kids get sprayed, or come across stories about its use on school campuses? I'll check around and let you know what I find. Image via
The Catalyst's Sarah Karp, in her ongoing account of the turnaround of Chicago's Marshall High School, explains how the school is seeking a balance between establishing order and not pushing out/counseling out more difficult students than is necessary. Karp describes successful in-house suspensions in some schools that allow schools to establish order while providing counseling. In one in-house program there was a ten-to-one student teacher ratio, and another had three adults assigned to the program so there was always a person available to counsel students. Marshall's in-house, despite the praiseworthy efforts of its teacher, has not been successful. The big problem was the lack of resources, but a seemingly minor detail may explain part of the problem. They banned laughing. If we want to persuade systems to invest in interventions for enforcing codes of conduct, we must prove that the purpose is helping kids, not warehousing them. The purpose of in-house and alternative programs must be teaching students to be students, not punishment. These kids must be treated with the same respect we would want for everyone else. If we would not want a rule banning laughter in an academic class, we should not have one in in-house. - JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.
Sarah Karp of Catalyst Chicago continues an in-depth analysis of the turnaround of Marshall High School. Nationally, the student population of schools undergoing turnarounds and transformations have declined by 27%, and the shrinkage has been sharper in Chicago. Marshall, for instance, is competing against twelve new schools, mostly charters. As a result, only 16% of students in Marshall's attendance area attend their neighborhood high school. Of course, those numbers cannot be reconciled with the spin that charters and are selective schools are serving "the same students." Those selective schools serve a disproportionate number of kids who would have been leaders at Marshall, and students who can't meet the academic, behavioral, and attendance standards of new competing schools are free to return to the neighborhood high school. Marshall's turnaround would probably be impossible if it was not now drawing more of the lines that charters can draw when creating safe and orderly learning cultures. On the other hand, only 1/6th of the kids in the neighborhood go to Marshall, and only 1/5th of them were counseled out of the school. Even in our toughest neighborhoods, only a small percentage of students have undergone trauma to the point where they cannot function in a neighborhood school. If we can afford billions of dollars for turnarounds at scale, we can afford the alternative services necessary to make those turnarounds possible.- JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.
#edcolo @ednews Here's an EdNews Colorado blog post and podcast of my talk in Denver last week (The “brutal work” of turnarounds), during which I focused on what made the Locke rescue effort unusual (teacher ratification, charter unionization, neighborhood responsibilities) and what Green Dot did that worked and didn't. The Obama initiative to fix the nation's worst schools seems still to be struggling with implementation and capacity issues -- an Obama-created race to the bottom for turnarounds. As I said during my talk, I don't think you can spend your way to fixing broken schools, or get any sense that the SIG program was designed or has been implemented with any create care. This is work that's too hard to do well for mere money. There has to be a leader, a group of teachers, or a community organization ready to do the work. And there has to be someone willing to play bad cop.
#edcolo @ednews There wasn't nearly enough time to do everything I wanted to do while I was in Denver -- thanks for all the suggestions! -- but I did get to see some interesting things. The feature event was a chance to talk about school turnarounds at an event hosted by a bunch of organizations including A+ Denver, Get Smart Schools, Donnell-Kay Foundation, and the Colorado Education Association. (They know turnarounds here. The attempt to rescue Manual High School was one of the most-watched [New Yorker, 5280] turnaround efforts of the last decade, the Central Falls of 2007-2008.) Afterwards it was fun to meet and/or hang out a bit with Denver's close-knit school reform mafia (Van Schoales, Mariah Dickson, Rob Stein, Alicia Economos, Tony Lewis, Kristina Tabor, Rob Kellogg, among others). The next day I got a tour of one of the 3 DSST charter schools, combined middle-high schools that feature a big focus on building community culture and a relatively high degree of student diversity for a charter school. I also got to see the Lake Middle School turnaround, part of the local district-charter compact that features a district-run IB school sharing a building and doing coordinated recruitment with a charter school (West Denver Prep) that gives priority for neighborhood kids and allows midyear transfers. And it was great to catch up with Alan Gottlieb and Kristina Tabor to talk about what makes for good education blogging and to hear about all the interesting things going on at EdNews Colorado, which features in-depth journalism that few other education sites offer. Anyway, it seems like there's lots going on in Denver. There's a board election that could alter the current 4-3 alliance that supports the current superintendent. Former President Bush and his Bush Institute team were in town to talk education. I should be paying more attention, and perhaps so should you.
#sig One unambiguous benefit of the turnaround process is that it brings reporters into urban schools. For instance, the Las Vegas Sun will be intensively covering five turnarounds. The new principal, David Wilson, started the series with a commentary, "Laying Down the Law to Change Culture." He plans to ban electronic devices, because, "when you have kids who are used to aimlessly texting and taking calls at will, walking into class with ear buds at will, listening to music and ignoring teachers, instruction suffers." The principal plans to enforce the tardy policy and put an end to students "just walking the hallways aimlessly." Wilson said that 80% will go along with the changes. Another 20% will push back. The angry 2% and their parents will loudly protest. The principal's estimates, as well as his policies, sound great to me. But if school systems across urban America had been willing to deal with the 2%, we would never have gotten into such a mess. If our schools had always been full of reporters, perhaps teachers would have been allowed to teach, and we would not need mass firings.- JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.
ED offers SIG schools extra time for teacher evaluation systems Politics K-12: The USDE has quietly invited states and schools to apply for some extra time to figure out the trickiest—and, arguably, the most crucial—component of the federal turnaround strategy.
Highlights from Arne Duncan's Twitter Town Hall Politics K-12: During a 30-plus-minute, rapid-fire Q & A between Arne Duncan and moderator John Merrow, we learned that 10 days of testing is too much, merit pay for teachers should be voluntary, and the U.S. Secretary of Education is a Twitter "novice."
N.Y. teachers score court victory NYT: A judge ruled Wednesday that the New York State Board of Regents overreached in its interpretation of a new law on teacher evaluations, offering a victory to the state teachers’ union.
Santa Monica-Malibu schools keep chocolate milk on menu LA Times: Bucking a trend, the Santa Monica-Malibu school board decides the benefits of chocolate milk for young people outweigh its risks.
D.C. mayor says most schools will open on time Washington Post: Mayor Vincent C. Gray said nearly all D.C. public schools will reopen Thursday because inspectors determined a day after the earthquake that they were safe for students.
Ky. judge pushes for neighborhood schools EdWeek: A Kentucky appeals court judge called Wednesday for the state's largest school district to end the "social experiment" of busing students for desegregation purposes and revert to neighborhood schools, stepping into what has become a high-profile political issue.
Test-Driving Online Learning NYT: Signing up for some online classes, a reporter discovers she has forgotten a lot about math. Also, that studying in front of a computer is lonely.
A roundup of magazines, sites, and columns I didn't get to during the week:
"Mass Resistance" To Education Reform Jonathan Chait (TNR): That sounds like devolving policy to the level of government at which local interest groups (in this case, teachers unions) will exert the most sway, and foreclosing the possibility of using evidence-based methods to drive policy toward more effective practices.
Fixing Schools, Fixing Teachers WNYC: The state refuses to release the $100M until the city and the teachers' union can agree on a new teacher evaluation system that combines test scores and classroom observations [for the 33 SIG schools].
Top Right's Faces of Innovation Slate: Khan’s educational videos are revolutionizing how kids learn math and science.
Math Teacher Full of Tangents Slate: A student who is fed up with his math teacher's disruptive digressions seeks counsel from Slate's advice columnist Prudence.
The sex ed hall of shame Salon: This week people were abuzz over news that New York City had mandated sex education -- and some were simply scratching their heads at the realization that this wasn't already the case. Seriously, it took this long?
If these teachers truly were not good enough for one struggling school, we have to ask whether it is a good idea to put them in another one. --TNTP's Tim Daly in response to a WSJ story about Newark schools swapping teachers to meet SIG restaffing requirements
Somehow in just nine minutes host Matt Weber manages to ask me all sorts of good questions about (how did the kids and teachers feel about me being around, visiting for the first time, etc.) on the new Harvard EdCast. Check it out here and let me know if you want to have me on your show, podcast, book club, etc. I've done a bunch of talks with education groups and training sessions and so far at least it's been lots of fun. There are also a bunch of other interviews in the series, including actor Jim True-Frost (the failed cop who becomes a teacher on The Wire) and reform enthusiast Whitney Tilson. I must warn you, however, that there is some tinkly Classical piano played to begin and end the show. It is Harvard, after all.
Several media outlets including the LA Times have reported on a new Berkeley study showing eye-openingly high annual teacher turnover rates at LA-area charter networks. But at least one of them, Green Dot, says that the report may overstate the real numbers. CEO Marco Petruzzi claims that Green Dot's annual teacher retention rate varies between 82- and 86 percent, compared to the 50 percent cited in the Berkeley report. Report author Bruce Fuller says that his study uses the same data set that Green Dot sends to LAUSD, but does not identify specific CMOs, and that the study needs to be updated to include more recent data. Still, how does everyone come up with such different numbers? One possible explanation is that Fuller et al include any and every kind of teacher movement, including folks who are asked to leave, who transfer from one campus to another, or who leave for greener pastures. Sixteen percent of the teachers at Locke left voluntarily last year, for example (27 of 170 teachers). But another 13 percent weren't asked back (for credential reasons, mostly). Lumping the departures all together isn't inaccurate, per se, but I'm not sure it conveys what we really want to know, which is how great or awful it is to work at a charter school. [corrected link]
Nicole Soussan taught English at Locke High School from 2006 to 2008, and was kind enough to let me share her reflections on what happened while she was at the school and what's happened there since she left: "Frank Wells hired me to teach at Locke High School after asking me to do one thing: tell him about myself. I'm not sure if it was my degree in African American Studies, my incredible enthusiasm for teaching at Locke, or the fact that he had hired a number of other Teach for America teachers that day, but a few minutes later, I was hired over a handshake. I had no idea then that my life and my job would unfold the way they did." [continued below]
I'm at my godson's graduation in DC otherwise I'd be at the Locke High School graduation taking place this afternoon in Los Angeles-- the third since the school shifted over from LAUSD to Green Dot. The last class of kids who started out under the old regime is finishing up. The school board president is going to be there, which is a nice sign of ceremonial cooperation between the district and its charter brethren. Over all, 484 kids are going to graduate, a larger number than in the two previous years (and the last year under LAUSD though the 2007 number may have been close). The numbers for next year -- the first set of kids who've been through four years under Green Dot -- should be even stronger, I'm told. There are 525 juniors currently on track to graduate in 2012. Pictured are Mike, Vick, and T -- three of the tough but warm campus aides who generally helped Locke kids feel good about coming to school (and made sure they went to class).
Speaking of "troublemakers" here's a video clip of NFL quarterback Michael Vick giving the commencement speech to kids graduating from an alternative high school:
He was speaking to graduates one of five Camelot Schools in Philadelphia. Camelot is an alternative school provider who's been used a lot by Vallas, among others. (Vick gives commencement address to graduates)
You can call the attempted transformation of Central Falls High School a "shambles" or a "joke" or a "cautionary tale" but you can't call it a success. As chronicled in Claudio Sanchez' recent NPR story said that the restructuring was "pathetic." Indeed, as the first year of school turnarounds at scale comes to a close, we are bound to read of more failures
Probably the best example of what it takes to turn around the toughest schools is Kenyatta Stansberry, the tattooed, spiky-haired principal of Marshall High School in Chicago, recently profiled in the Chicago Tribune. Stansberry, "the Marine," "will not take any lip. She can defuse a hard-core gangbanger." And "she patrols Facebook into the night, looking for signs of a brewing school fight or just to tell her students. 'It's 11 p.m. Time to go to bed.'"
To gain control of the school, however, 161 students were sent elsewhere, 104 of them transferred to other schools, and 34 went to alternative schools. (I wonder whether the principals of the 104 transfers will be equally diligent in addressing behavior, so that the influx of potential troublemakers does not further damage their schools.) Then, the love part of the tough love approach was able to show results. Stansberry identified a core group of remaining troublemakers and met with them once a week. "That group of 10 is now down to five -- she calls them 'the Fab Five.'"
It is true that "troublemakers" are potential leaders, but turning them around takes a commitment that has been lost on most data-driven reformers. We should honor leaders who respect the moral core of students and do the hard work required to create safe and orderly schools. Apparently it took ten years for Dr. Bertie Simmons to turn around Furr High School, in Houston, but when violence spun out of control, the hand-picked principal decided against expelling gangbangers. Instead, "She took 32 gang members, none of whom had ever been on an airplane, to Ground Zero. They saw the empty footprints. They walked the hallowed ground. They prayed in Trinity Church. Dr. Simmons also took them to the United Nations, to Chinatown, to Central Park, to the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. They even saw a Broadway show. In one trip, these kids saw more of the world than they had seen their entire lives. When they got back to Houston, the violence abruptly stopped."
I have experienced the hard work, as well as the joy, of appealing to the better angels of teens, as we introduce them to the wider world. Because of NCLB, however, we do not even bring kids in Oklahoma City on field trips to the Murrah Federal Building Bombing Memorial. But while I expect many more stories about turnarounds that failed after taking the quick and easy approach of blaming violence and disorder on teachers, I hope that true believers in turnarounds will learn from Dr. Simmons and Ms. Stansberry.
Despite a new mayor and schools chief, Chicago is apparently taking a softer approach to school rescue efforts next year. I wrote about this disappointing turn of events in the Sun-Times over the weekend (School reform goes through the motions). After years of doing closures and turnarounds, creating capacity within the district and fostering the growth of an outside group called AUSL, the city is going with the light touch option known as "transformation" -- a step backwards, even as it seems clearer than ever that making a break with the past and creating a new culture takes more than a new face in the principal's office. Of course, I get that there's no guarantee that school rescue efforts will work, and a dire shortage of principals and teachers willing to take on the work. The Chicago Board of Education and many others have botched rescue efforts more than they would care to admit. But the kids attending these schools aren't getting much of an education, and replacing staff as well as administrators seems like a pretty reasonable and necessary strategy. Let's not over-rate continuity for its own sake. And let's not forget that the SIG program is roughly as big as Race To The Top and is sending out gobs of money to nearly every state in the nation for the second year in a row.
Some of the folks at Green Dot were disappointed in my recent interview on Southern California Public Radio – especially around the issue of progress that’s been made (which I described as substantial but not miraculous) and who's benefits host Madeleine Brand questioned closely. Green Dot reports that there are roughly 1200 additonal students on campus taking and finishing classes than before the changeover, that proficiency rates have doubled, and the number of students graduating with courses that make them eligible for a four-year college have tripled over three years (projected for this spring). Locke's results from the 2011 state exit exams continue to rise every year. A new study from UCLA is coming out soon that will apparently confirm the positive effects. It’s not my job to sell Green Dot's success or make Locke's results seem better than they are, but I didn’t mean to make it seem like nothing (or even very little) has been accomplished at the school. I continue to believe what's happened at Locke is admirable and worth emulating. The third and final class of "old" Locke students graduates later this month.
Education chief wants swifter action on reform bill KARE: In a visit to the Twin Cities Tuesday Duncancalled on Congress to replace the No Child Left Behind law before the next school year... GOP questions federal rules on healthier eating AP: They say the new rules are too costly...More states help immigrant students pay for higher education Stateline: Connecticut and Illinois are the latest states to expand tuition assistance for children of undocumented immigrants... Making the grade in a troubled school district CBS Evening News: Last fall none of the kindergarten kids were reading at grade level. Today, 75 percent are above or on target. Murray attributes this to a change in teaching attitudes... Detroit Looks To Charters To Remake Public Schools: The plan faces tremendous skepticism from a generation of parents and teachers frustrated from previous reform efforts...Despite successes, charter school takeovers draw protests CNN: Some said their public schools haven't been given a chance to succeed. Some don't trust charter school operators... Student Alonzo Clark Allegedly Mistreated For Misspelling Word HuffED: Alonzo Clark claims the substitute teacher slammed the classroom door, dragged him from behind a table, and took him to the principal's office by his collar... Robin Hood Inspires Los Angeles Schools Chief On Poverty Battle Bloomberg (via GS): One of his first tasks was overseeing the creation of the Los Angeles Fund for Public Education... Calif. budget will keep new $105M school closed AP: A Southern California school district spent $105 million on a new state-of-the-art high school, but after three years of funding cuts doesn't have the money to operate it...
The most memorable part of my Southern California Public Radio interview with Madeleine Brand earlier today was her honest but somewhat heartbreaking response to my description of the hard-won improvements that have taken place at Locke since 2008 -- the safe grounds and quiet hallways, the kids feeling like their teachers care about them and that they can succeed in school. "That sounds sort of depressing." Brand said. Indeed, not getting gangbanged in the hall or humiliated when you have a question in class is no big deal to most of us, and it's not hard to look at all the work that's gone on at Locke and hundreds of other turnaround efforts and think the same thing: no big deal. I get that, and have had the thought myself many times. But then I remember how big a difference it makes when I feel safe on my way home to Brooklyn or how big a difference it makes when an editor is even the slightest bit engaged and supportive. Little things make big differences in all of our lives. We're unsettled and unproductive when they're not the way we want them; it's just that the little things at Locke are different than most of ours. Expecting big things immediately is understandable but ultimately destructive. It's a habit we have to get out of if we want to have any chance of making a real difference in the long run.
You don't lead with the facts in order to convince. You lead with the values—so as to give the facts a fighting chance.. -- Mother Jones
With funding for 30+ efforts available from Washington, the city has announced rescue plans that sound pretty wishy washy -- for only nine low-performing schools (NYT,GothamSchools, NY1). There are no charter conversions in the bunch, and no turnarounds, either. (Apparently -- I've never heard of this before -- union approval is considered necessary in NYC for the turnaround option, which requires that at least 50 percent of teachers be replaced at a school.) The city says it had no other options, absent union agreement, other than closing schools which no one wanted to do at this late date and on such a great scale. The union blames the city (here). "They are not changing anything," says one principal who's school is going to go through the process next year. Seems like there's blame enough to go around unless the city and union pull this mess out of the fire.
If you're in Manhattan after work on Monday and so inclined the kind folks at DL21C (Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century) are having me come talk about "How One Charter Network Tried to Fix a Broken High School -- and Almost Broke Itself." I promise tantalizing tidbits about Green Dot, Steve Barr, and all the legal wrangling behind the book publication. Check it out here. Should be fun.
"Drama and art teacher Monica Mayall stood in the doorway checking students into her bright, spacious third-floor classroom. Most got a warm welcome. However, new faces not already on her roster received a polite rebuff. ‘‘Sorry, you’re number 34, so I can’t let you in,’’ said Mayall with a cheerful smile. ‘‘It’s nothing personal—I hope to have you back in my class someday.’’ The students, many with a newly printed schedule in their hands, looked surprised but headed back downstairs to the counselors’ office.
‘‘But you don’t have thirty-three kids your room,’’ said Emily Kaplowitz, the counselor who came up to see what the problem was. Indeed, on any given day the twice-divorced mother of two college-age boys had nowhere near thirty-three kids in her room. But that wasn’t the point. ‘‘The contract says I only have to take thirty-three on my roster,’’ said Mayall, a sneaky little smile on her face. ‘‘Take some of the kids who aren’t showing up off my roster and then I’ll have room.’’
That's one of the chapters highlighted in Jay Mathews overly kind review of my book in the Washington Post this morning.
Mike Petrilli needed to make himself read more books so he started a book club. And last week, he interviewed me about my book about the effort to turn around Locke High that -- for a while at least -- made everyone involved a little bit crazy. The interview has just been posted here, and Petrilli asks me some good questions (like why the book isn't just about Green Dot founder Steve Barr). Still, I'm not sure I did justice to the book or the experience Locke and Green Dot went through. Some amazing things happened to the teachers, kids, and do-gooders involve in the Locke rescue effort. But things didn't turn out as expected for many of them, and at times watching events unfold was pretty excruciating. The lesson from Locke is that schools can be substantially improved from their former state but doing the work -- fulfilling the promises -- is no joke. Sometimes it was the rescuers who ended up needing rescue.
Late last week the Chicago News Cooperative noted that 12 of Chicago's 85 charters are already unionized (or in process), and more may be on the way --probably the largest group of intentionally unionized charters in the nation. With one exception, these aren't schools that were intended to be unionized from the start, like Green Dot schools, or mandated statewide, like a handful of states. These are schools where teachers sought and -- after a battle -- won recognition in order to have better control over things like workloads, schedules, and other issues. It's still a very small (12 percent) subset of a very small category of schools (5500 charters). There's no research that unionized charters are any better than regular ones when it comes to student achievement (though I'm guessing teacher retention is better). It's a kind of school that has many enemies (unionists, charter operators, and districts among them). But still, there's an undeniable appeal to combining semi-autonomous schools with somewhat-protected teachers. At least, to me. The fact that this is happening in a place where charters have been limited in number and closely monitored by the district, which is also the authorizer, is especially interesting.
In case you're intereseted, here's a useful description from of the DVD extras included in the home version of WFS from the reputable outfit known as 411mania: "The first segment focuses on the Miller-McCoy Academy, which is a boys' school set up after the events of Hurricane Katrina. The second talks about Steve Barr, who is responsible for the first ever hostile takeover of a school, which was in Los Angeles. The third segment follows educational reformer Bill Strickland, who explains his opinions and beliefs. The last one introduces us to the Green family, and this has some important facts on why charter schools are not always great (which is limited to one line in the feature), but again, if these were inserted, people might not fantasize over charter schools like Guggenheim wants. Funny how portions of the deleted footage would have improved the documentary. Some solid interviews here, but if placed in the feature, it could have been too impartial for what Guggenheim was going for." Anyone viewed the extras and have any thoughts about how they affect the message of the movie?
Sam Dillon reported in Saturday’s New York Times that Steve Barr's spinoff organization has now changed its name in order to clarify the legal and operational separation between Barr’s current work and Green Dot Public Schools, Barr’s original organization. Dillon describes Green Dot and Barr as “going through a divorce” and is kind enough to mention some of the uncomfortable dynamics that led up to the split that are described in my forthcoming book.
The story behind Barr and Green Dot parting ways is understandably fascinating to education watchers, who rarely get to see any of the internal strife and sausage-making that goes on behind the velvet school reform curtain communicated to them by the mainstream media and reformy blogs. But internal conflicts and partings of ways aren’t really all that unusual in education or other fields (think politics, business, or entertainment). Jon Schnur left New Leaders just a few months ago after having gone through a slew of senior staff over the years. Richard Colvin departed less than two years after having announced the “new” Hechinger Institute. Co-founders Tom Toch and Andy Rotherham fell out with each other and their board and left Education Sector after just four years. The CDF and the Forum have had a lot of turnover. Tom Vander Ark and the Gates Foundation went their separate ways in 2007, after eight years together.
The only thing particularly notable about the Barr/Green Dot split is how poorly covered and understood it was for such a long time -- and how long everybody seemed to leave it that way. Marco Petruzzi replaced Barr as CEO of Green Dot in the fall of 2008 and Shane Martin replaced him as board chair in 2009. The organization formally known as Green Dot America never had much to do with the "real" Green Dot. But no one in the media or among any but the anti-reform bloggers seemed to grasp (or be willing to say out loud) what was happening, and Green Dot and Barr both seemed understandably content at the time to let the circumstances remain vague. [Much the same thing is happening now with Rhee and Klein, whose untimely dismissals are usually ignored in news stories and at conferences.]
The situation would have remained unclear for even longer but a recent NYT article about Barr’s possible expansion in NYC made apparent just how confused everyone was. (A story in GothamSchools fails to explain the split or the rationale behind the renaming.) Friday's news was the signing of the final divorce papers after a long separation – and the beginning of what one hopes is a strong future for the work being done by Barr and Petruzzi.
Ousted principals quickly find new education jobs AP: It didn't take long for Ev Arnold to land on his feet, though: The same district now pays him the identical salary to oversee the school's turnaround... 'Value-added' teacher evaluations: L.A. Unified tackles a tough formula LAT: In Houston, school district officials introduced a test score-based evaluation system to determine teacher bonuses, then — in the face of massive protests — jettisoned the formula after one year to devise a better one... As Student Absenteeism Rises, a Charter School Fights Back CNC: At the Chicago Talent Development Charter School, the administration and staff are trying different tactics to fight a citywide problem of student absenteeism... Madonna’s Charity Fails in Bid to Finance School NYT: Plans to build the $15 million school have been abandoned amid criticism of what auditors called $3.8 million in outlandish expenditures... Behind The Scenes: How Do You Get Into Amherst? NPR: Admissions committees at selective colleges sometimes have to plow through thousands of applications to choose the members of next year's freshman class. The committee at Amhest College in Mass., will accept only 1,000 of the more than 8,000 students who applied... Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann Criticize Public Schools Reuters: Three potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates expressed hostility toward the public school system at a home schooling rally on Wednesday in the early presidential caucus state of Iowa... When test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real? USAT: Twice in three years, Rhee rewarded Noyes' staff for boosting scores: In 2008 and again in 2010, each teacher won an $8,000 bonus, and the principal won $10,000... One Student Shot at Indiana Middle School Atlantic Wire: According to CNN, the student in custody may have been "recently expelled." .. School Named In Honor Of Teacher Jaime Escalante AP: A Los Angeles-area school has been named for late calculus teacher Jaime Escalante, whose story about pushing underachieving students to succeed was chronicled in the 1988 hit movie "Stand and Deliver."
"As the 8:00 a.m. starting time approached, a stream of nearly 2,500 black and Latino students flowed toward Locke High School from every direction. Off the bus, out of parents' cars, or (mostly) on foot, the throng passed the school's electric marquee and a couple of squad cars and TV news trucks before finally reaching the front gate.
"Not all of the arriving students were allowed to pass inside, however. Several stood in little clusters off to both sides of the gate unbuckling their belts and shoving the tails of their polo shirts down into khaki pants. Once inside, the teens tugged their shirts and rearranged their belongings like airline travelers after going through security.
"Monitoring them was rookie assistant Zeus Cubias, the 34-year-old former Locke math teacher who had been tapped to help oversee the returning Locke students. He had long, wavy brown hair, small hoop earrings in each ear, a closely trimmed goatee, and chunky glasses. A tiny microphone was perched on his lapel, courtesy of the camera crew from Nightline, just one of several media outlets on campus.
"Cubias was willing to go along with Green Dot if it meant making Locke better. He'd gotten his first tattoo, Christ the Redeemer superimposed over the nearby Watts Towers, to commemorate his decision to stay. And if there ever was a movie version of the Locke turnaround story, he wanted Johnny Depp to play him."
This is the first of an occasional series of excerpts from my forthcoming book, Stray Dogs, Saints, And Saviors. You can preview the book here.
There was an item in the NYT last week about the possibility of Green Dot America doing a Locke-style turnaround effort in New York (New Tactic for Failing Schools). The Steve Barr spinoff has a website, a board, a president (Gideon Stein), and staff. Then just yesterday, Green Dot won approval from LAUSD to take over Clay Middle School (Charter school operators to run 7 more campuses LAT). Why should you care? Green Dot's unionized neighborhood charter school is different from some of the other turnaround models out there, and my formerly Ravitch-endorsed book about the Locke turnaround and its aftermath is coming out in a few weeks. That's why.
Rhode Island: Providence Mayor Plans School Closings NYT: As many as 70 teaching jobs could be eliminated under a plan to close four elementary schools in Providence, Mayor Angel Taveras said... Providence Mayor recommends closing 4 schools WP: Providence Mayor Angel Taveras is proposing closing four schools and eliminating up to 70 school jobs to bolster the finances of the city's cash-strapped school system... KIPP, Teachers’ Union Go Toe to Toe in Baltimore EdWeek: The charter school group threatened to close its Baltimore schools in a dispute over teacher pay for an extended school day... L.A. school board to decide who will run new schools LAT: Various groups are vying to run the 7 new high schools and 6 other campuses. The board is under pressure from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to reward charter schools... Computer-Based G.E.D. Tests Planned NYT: The American Council on Education and Pearson, a major education and testing company, are starting a partnership to design and deliver a computer-based G.E.D. test... Philadelphia School Plans to Fire Teacher for Talking EdWeek: The Philadelphia Public School District yanked a teacher from her classroom, stuck her in solitary confinement and threatened to fire her because the teacher opposed a plan to turn her public high school into a charter school, the teacher's union says... Suit Faults Test Preparation at Preschool NYT: A mother in Manhattan is suing York Avenue Preschool, which she said failed to prepare her daughter, now 4, for a test required to enter a competitive private elementary.