Cost of the status quo is way more expensive

Cost of the status quo is way more expensive

Just read this great article by a parent who works in a public charter school. Charter schools are not immune to the problems of traditional public schools – But you also can’t

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

read this article and proclaim traditional charters are superior. Please focus on the content of the article, about parents making choices for their own kids.

These are two former blogs about this very topic – what parents decide for their own kids:

When the only option is a failing school & Sounds good in theory, but not in practice

This article is written by a parent working in the same school her own child attended.

My 8-year-old daughter’s class was chaotic after her first-year teacher got married in Chicago and then relocated to Texas after Christmas break. It was hard enough to bring on a new teacher in the middle of the year, but the situation was only exacerbated when the replacement teacher was also brand new to the profession. (In fairness, my daughter’s class of 28 students was difficult to manage even for more experienced teachers. Teachers had to tap into their inner guru each and every day.)

My administration was trying to work with the replacement teacher, but it was painful for me to watch professional development attempts being made for a novice teacher who was in full crisis mode. Assurances from my school leaders that, with more instructional coaching, the class would gradually get better in time, fell flat with me. It was now February—how much more time could my child afford?

The complacency that the administration goes through in keeping this teacher, or hiring her in the first place. I talked a little bit about how teacher education needs to be improved in this blog but I am tired of administrations doing what they can to help (even if it’s ineffective) and settling for that being the best they can do. We need all of our kids to have an excellent education and large part of that is a great teacher.

My kid wasn’t ambivalent; she knew what she wanted. In fact, she begged me to transfer her out of the school that she had once loved. Even at 8, she was willing to say goodbye to all her friends to gain a sense of emotional safety and sanity.

I love my school and count many of my colleagues as my friends. The teachers (including my daughter’s former teachers) work extremely hard, and it’s obvious that they care about the students. And since it’s a charter school, parents like me feel fortunate that our kids’ names were pulled from the lottery and granted admission. I’ve often lamented that all kids and parents don’t have access to good schools like this one, district or charter.

But now I found myself contemplating the unthinkable—transferring my little girl out.

Parents are dealing with these struggles every day. Charter or traditional public school we need to make sure that every child has an effective teacher. I keep saying that our kids aren’t going to get those days of lost education back. We need to care right now about getting the best kids in the classroom.

The mom continues…

Last week, a colleague passed on a powerful article about the author Doug Lemov, who wrote “Teach Like a Champion,” to my principal, who then passed it on to me. These bits from the article gave me peace about the decision I made:

The evidence suggests that a child at a bad school taught by a good teacher is better off than one with a bad teacher at a good school. The benefits of having been in the class of a good teacher cascade down the years; the same is true of the penalty for having had a bad teacher.

In 1992, an economist called Eric Hanushek reached a remarkable conclusion by analyzing decades of data on teacher effectiveness: a student in the class of a very ineffective teacher—one ranked in the bottom 5 percent—will learn, on average, half a year’s worth of material in one school year, whereas if she was in the class of a very effective teacher—in the top 5 percent—she would learn a year and a half’s worth of material. In other words, the difference between a good and a bad teacher is worth a whole year.

Here you go. Evidence that our kids are literally loosing out by not having a great teacher. Parents are left with very few options if they feel their child is not getting an adequate education. And sometimes they choose another school, yet they shouldn’t have to. While education theorists and unions and the media are criticizing themselves daily, our nation’s kids are sitting in classrooms with ineffective teachers. We need to spend more time “on the ground” with kids and teachers and less time in the ivory towers of “theory” and “rhetoric.”

The mom ends:

It means that if any one of my students’ parents were to have insight into the day-to-day happenings in the school or classroom the way I am privy to it as a staff member, would they trust that their child was getting the absolute best education possible?

In other words, it means that educators need to approach our practice with the same diligence we would have if our own biological child sat in every single class.

My household operates on a tight budget, so the $700 a month private school tuition bill I now have to pay really hurts. But now that my little girl is excited about learning again and is able to focus in class, I realize that the cost of the status quo was way more expensive.

When the only option is a failing school

I plan to spend my entire career working to advance education policy. I generally am thinking of the future, of the innovations we could do. But as of late I have been brought into the here and now. While I like thinking about future solutions, there are students and parents RIGHT THIS MINUTE in a school crisis. And they need an advocate.

Parents who cannot afford to live in a school district with high success rates. Parents who can afford a little more than those parents but still do not have top tier schools. The parents who do not win the charter school lottery for their child. Parents who don’t even live in a district that has a charter school at all.

When you hear stories like this:

She is entering Kindergarten next year. It’s too late for her to go to a public charter school to get picked for the lottery. The schools around one of her homes (she has 3—long story, don’t ask) is BAD, the school around her other home is WORSE and the school around her last home is THE WORST. She’s a smart kid and I only want the best for her. Private school isn’t a viable option at this point.

Even when you hear stories about students who are in coveted schools but feel like their student is getting left out because they aren’t the best or the worst students.

Stories about a local elementary school with a principal who only allows parent involvement on “her terms.” She reined for 10 years in my district and forced parents to create a start-up charter school. Where was the administration to counsel or remove that principal? Oh yeah, she was transferred, not fired. I can only hope she climbs off her high horse for her next school.

I stand for these kids.

When Michelle Rhee spoke at an event in Atlanta on Friday she told this story. She said when she Chancellor in DC, union advocates would come up to her demanding that certain teachers be re-instated. Rhee responded: If you will send all of your 4 children to DCPS, I will gladly re-instate any of the ineffective teachers you request. And I’ll make sure they are teaching your children. Needless to say they never took her up on her offer.

She went on to say that it is not a Democratic or Republican issue, but a kids issue. What decision would you make for your own kids? That has to be the bar by which we measure what we impose on other people’s children.

 

Student Advocate in Teacher Contract Negotiations?

Yesterday, I posted about When are public school students going to be represented? and I received a very interesting comment that reinforced an idea I had. The comment was “I wonder if there is a way to get kids to advocate for themselves, and change the education system from the bottom up?”

I am currently training to be a CASA volunteer in DeKalb County. A CASA volunteer is a court appointed special advocate to talk with all the parties of a Department of Children and Families case and make recommendations to the court/judge as to what is in the best interest of the child. In the court already there is an attorney for the child, and an attorney for the parents. Yet there is still a need for a CASA because sometimes what parents and children want is not actually in the children(s) best interest.

Teachers and school administration all have their own interests that often do not coincide with the best interests of students. Teachers want more pay, additional pay for hours worked beyond the current schedule (extending the school day), tenure, evaluations that do not include evidence of student progress (or regression)…etc.

Teacher pay is locked up in a chicken vs. egg debate around a desire to see results and then provide more pay, but teachers are having trouble providing those results with the current resources. While the teachers are asking for more money and the administration is refusing or simply doesn’t have it – Students are still being taught by ineffective teachers, and what is the guarantee that teachers and students will all perform better with more teacher pay? Are you telling me that teachers are doing the bare minimum now and would be more willing to go to greater lengths if they were paid more? While teachers are withholding some quality waiting for pay increases and the district is refusing – they should have to directly explain those perspectives to the student advocate.

Teachers have traditionally fought against extending the school day without increasing pay. While this may be a fair point of view, the district is asking the teachers to perform extra school duties in extended day because extended school time is shown to be incredibly beneficial for students. But students won’t receive it because teachers won’t do it and administration won’t pay for it. Both sides will need to explain that to their student advocate.

Tenure – Teachers like security in their jobs. Traditionally, districts might be less inclined to appreciate tenure because it hinders their ability to staff schools with highly qualified, effective teachers. Teachers should explain to the student advocate why they deserve tenure instead of ensuring that every student has a highly qualified, effective teacher.

Teacher Evaluations – Teachers are generally in rejection of teacher evaluations with student progress measures. Teachers should have to explain to the student advocate that while students livelihoods depend heavily on student progress measures such as standardized tests – that the teachers shouldn’t be held accountable to the same level. Basically, the tests impact the kids, but the teachers should be immune to the effects. Kids lives are effected every single day by standardized tests but teachers don’t think they should be held accountable to the same tests. How is that fair to students? Teachers should have to explain that to the student advocate.

What do you think about having a student advocate involved in teacher contract negotiations?