Alisha Thomas Morgan, new head of Ivy Prep Academies

Alisha Thomas Morgan, new head of Ivy Prep Academies

I’alisha appointed to Ivy Prepm proud to report from the Charter Confidential blog that Alisha Thomas Morgan has been named the new Executive Director of Ivy Preparatory Academies, which serves more than 1,300 students in three metro Atlanta public charter schools.

I know Alisha personally and volunteered on her State Superintendent campaign in 2014. She has been an avid supporter of charters and sponsored legislation to pass the charter amendment that allowed an alternate state authorizer to open charter schools denied by reluctant local school districts in 2012.

“Ms. Morgan has been very involved with public education in the state of Georgia, especially within the charter school movement,” said Christopher Kunney, chair of IPA’s governing board.  “She is very passionate about providing students with a quality education. Her commitment to kids will resonate well with our teachers and the community that we serve. Under her leadership, we will build Ivy Preparatory Academies into a national model for single-gender education.”

“I am extremely excited that the board selected Ms. Morgan as Ivy Prep’s new Executive Director,” said Dr. Nina Gilbert, founder of IPA. “Locally, many only know Ms. Morgan as a politician. However, I also know her as passionate and bold leader who understands what it takes to improve student achievement. In addition to her work as a legislator who fought tirelessly for the children she now serves, she is also a Broad Fellow and is among an elite group of individuals who lead some of the nation’s largest urban districts and charter school networks. She has great plans for Ivy, and I have complete confidence in her ability to advance the mission and vision of our schools. I look forward to working hand-in-hand with Ms. Morgan and the thousands of parents, teachers, and supporters we are engaging with on this journey to make educational excellence and college completion a reality for more metro Atlanta children.”

“I remember my floor speech about the ‘Little Girls In the Green Jackets’ who, like all Georgia students, deserved quality public schools that met their needs,” Morgan said. “After advocating for Ivy Prep as a state legislator for many years, it feels like coming home to now serve as their leader. My work as a public servant and education reformer has prepared me for this moment. I am looking forward to partnering with parents, the community, and our stakeholders as we make Ivy Prep a proof point for what is possible in public education.

“We need to lead the nation in innovation and producing scholars who are critical thinkers for the 21st century,” Morgan added. “With the support of the board, I’m excited to lead the organization to the next level. We will work together, leveraging every resource that we have, to achieve that vision.”

I am excited to see where Alisha takes Ivy Prep and looking forward to sharing any of my expertise that can be helpful.

“Student achievement is my No. 1 priority,” Morgan said. “And while we celebrate the successes that we have had at the girls’ schools, it is unacceptable that we have not met the needs of our young men. If we are not here producing top quality scholars, then we are not doing our job. I won’t accept any excuses. We will do whatever it takes to make sure that all of our scholars are learning at high levels.”



Who Pays For That Research Anyways?

© Paynich

© Paynich


I just wrote about how anecdotes are more powerful than research in this last post. Here’s another reason why.

Anecdotes are real, from real people, in real scenarios. Who is paying for that research anyways? Recently, Randi W tweeted this in a convo:

randi disclose tweet



This blog features a nice rebuttal to Randi about her claim that “all my  interests were disclosed….upfront.”

Perhaps the biggest part of Weingarten’s whopper is the fact that her post overlooks AFT’s relationship with the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). Since 2008, AFT has contributed at least $2.4 million to the EPI. Meanwhile, Weingarten and AFT cite EPI’s research and material but do not disclose the connections between AFT and the think tank. Meanwhile, EPI does not consistently disclose that it is funded by AFT and that Weingarten serves on its board. For example, in October 2013, EPI co-hosted a forum moderated by EPI president Lawrence Mishel that included Weingarten and Diane Ravitch. EPI’s press release to announce the forum did not disclose EPI’s relationship with Weingarten or AFT. In April 2014, EPI released a paper on school privatization and cited an AFT issue brief. The report didn’t acknowledge AFT gave money to EPI.

In my view, research can be very subjective even thought its not supposed to be. Real stories from real people make a stronger case and a stronger impact. We need more people in the field getting to know parents and kids and teachers and schools, and many fewer who profess to write “research” (Like Diane Ravitch).

One thing that really turned me off about think tanks when I was in DC was their constant “new report gathering.” Literally the same groups of think tank staff attend one event where one groups releases their newest “report.” Then a month later, another gathering, and another “new report.” Think tank staffers get paid much more than teachers do and they just sit around reading and writing and it all just seems very elitist to the rest of us who are working day in and day out to help real people in real cities in real neighborhoods in real schools.

I trust research about as far as I can see it demonstrated for myself.

AL Dems don’t want charters, but AL 8th graders are 50th nationally in math

In these last posts, Alabama Educators Association helping or hurting students?,  AEA spews lies in response to “School Choice” MarchParents rally at Alabama Capitol for school choice, I talked about the movement in Alabama allow charter schools. On Wednesday, March 18, the Alabama legislature passed the charter school bill and the Governor of Alabama signed it the following day.

The article states that the bill would allow for 10 new “startup” schools each year and unlimited conversions of existing schools.

The House bill’s sponsor, Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) said the measure is designed to empower parents and expand school choice options.

“Every child in Alabama deserves a high quality education, and the School Choice and Student Opportunity Act empowers parents with another choice for their child’s education,” Collins said. “It is time for Alabama to join the other 42 states that provide this innovative option to educators, parents, and students.”

Congratulations Alabama! I’m glad that some parents in Alabama will have more choices soon as to where they will send their children. Only 43rd in the country to do so!

Alabama Senate Minority Leader Quinton Ross  (D-Montgomery) disagreed with the bill’s passage.

I fundamentally and philosophically disagree with the passage of charter school legislation in the state of Alabama. I truly believe it is a setback for the schoolchildren as well as the citizens of the state,” said Senate Minority Leader Quinton T. Ross Jr. (D-Montgomery). “Every citizen needs to be aware of how their public dollars will be spent under the guise of education funding. I pray that the governor will think long and hard about the public schoolchildren and the taxpayers of the state of Alabama before signing this legislation.”
AL stats
Instead of repeating what has already been said about the need for more choices for students, I’m going to let this chart speak for me. What has been going on in AL hasn’t been working very well. If charters can offer a number of students the option to attend a better performing school, AL should welcome them.

I want every student to be able to write a similar list

I wanted to take a moment and reflect on some of the things I am thankful for, particularly in the area of education.

I’m Thankful that

  • I have parents who value education and made sure I attended schools, went to college and thereafter a master’s degree
  • I have parents who stood up for me and advocated for me and my sisters when necessary in our schools
  • I had some incredible teachers who may have very well been the reasons I was successful in school, some of which I am still connected to
  • I had some ineffective teachers and counselors who were inadvertently reasons that I am in the education field today, making a difference, in ways that they failed me
  • I was able to help my younger sister apply to and she was admitted to a truly revolutionary public charter school that I could have only dreamed of attending myself
  • I have realized my passion for education reform and find it my calling, the reason I feel I was put here on Earth
  • There are individuals in my life and professional career that have unconditional and often immediate belief in my ability to do great things
  • I meet incredible individuals all the time that continue to encourage and inspire me to keep moving forward

My goal in life is to make sure as many kids as possible can make the same or similar list to mine.

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.


Refuting Anthony Cody, Part 2

Yesterday, I began responding to Anthony Cody’s interview with Valerie Strauss in this post. I realized yesterday that Anthony Cody is treasurer of an organization of which Diane Ravitch is the Board President. Well, We already know which way his perspectives lean…before we even read it!

V.S.: Can you be more specific about the “large-scale experiment” you say the foundation is conducting? What has Gates money paid for in recent years that has affected students and teachers?

A.C.: The term “experiment” comes from Bill Gates himself. In a 2008 interview, he spoke of how his foundation was investing in districts with strong mayoral control. [See video here.] Here is what he said:

There’s a lot of issues about governance, whether it’s school boards or unions, where you want to allow for experimentation, in terms of pay procedures, management procedures, to really prove out new things. As those things start working on behalf of the students, then I believe the majority of teachers and voters will be open-minded to these new approaches. And so, we have to take it a step at a time. They have to give us the opportunity for this experimentation [emphasis added].

The cities where our foundation has put the most money in, is where there’s a single person responsible – in New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., the mayor has responsibility for the school system, and so instead of having a committee of people, you have that one person. And that’s where we’ve seen the willingness to take on some of the older practices and try new things. And we’ve seen very good results in all three of those cities, so there are some lessons that have already been learned. We need to make more investments, and I do think the teachers will come along, because, after all, they’re there because they believe in helping the students, as well.

Teachers and administration are traditionally defensive when new approaches are taken. Partially, because if I come in a say “hey let’s try something new”, Teachers and administration inadvertently hear “What I have been doing for 30+ years is being downplayed and insignificant.” Nobody wants to feel that way. one approach is to say to teachers and Administration: “You have been doing the very best you can with the antiquated 150 year old school system you were given. But we know it is not working to its full potential for all of our students. We want to try something that new to see how it works.”

I can see how it may be easier to have that conversation with one person versus a group of people. Parents with kids in a failing school need help NOW, not when a group of people has gotten around to allowing it. BTW, it’s called leadership, when a public official brings in new ideas to help an ailing system.

The policies that the Gates Foundation was promoting in these three cities were the same ones they were able to get turned into federal mandates through the Race to the Top and NCLB waivers. That is why the federal government now requires states to adopt “college and career ready” standards such as the Common Core, include test scores in teacher evaluations, and demands that limits on charter schools be lifted as a condition of funding.

I’m sorry I am not following….you don’t think states should have college & career ready standards? Many states actively participated in RTTT grants and are better for it. Even in circumstances where funding was no awarded, such as Promise Neighborhood grants – the communities had a plan in place that they could still execute if other funding was found. We need innovation in our education strategies and any opportunity bring about progress for students.

Unfortunately, a report came out from the Broader and Bolder Initiative last year which shows that in the very cities the Gateses spoke of in such glowing terms, market-driven reform has failed to deliver any results, in spite of the full embrace of the Gateses’ vision. (See here.)

I will report on this claim in my next post, but I will say that there have been successes, but you can’t admit them because it would not support your claim. This is an example of poor information, the public needs to be able to do their own research and not take the word of someone who is professing to be knowledgeable.

In scientific research, if one is conducting an experiment and clear negative effects are observed, the experiment is discontinued. I think this experiment has run its course and should be ended before more damage is done to our schools and children who attend them.

Here again you are professing a definite answer. I believe that science actual would tweak and make adjustments to continue working towards the intended goal. Scientists don’t simply give up because one experiment went wrong. And I believe by your claim, the work that is successful in education reform (which you can’t admit because it doesn’t support your claim) should be continued, because it is working to educate children that the old antiquated system simply wasn’t.

I challenge you to admit one education reform idea that is working, Prove that you are not just a talking head, but can admit when something you don’t agree with is working.

What unions should advocate for to allow teachers to teach

Teacher pay, rights, tenure issues, curriculum are items that effect teachers but unions should be focused on two other topics that will actually improve teacher’s day-to-day life in the classroom. School discipline and school counseling.

I spent last year volunteering at the lowest performing middle school in DeKalb County. I spent time in the classroom of an amazing, well prepared teacher. Harvard graduate, TFA teacher in Louisiana. She had all the makings in the classroom of a quality and caring teacher – Encouraging and supporting quotes on the walls, along the lines of her not giving up on her students, clearly marked consequence system, student work around the room, using a daily system to award positive and negative points to students, engaging curriculum. I hardly saw her become frustrated and was moved by her consistent patience. What were the issues?

The school is in chaos. You can have the best teacher and still have a school in chaos. Transitions were atrocious. Just constant noise. One student I worked with in her class said that she just wanted a quiet classroom. Why can’t she have that? It is difficult to give personalized attention to each student at the same time and maintain the noise level. Sometimes she would have twice as many students because of a teacher absence. Why and how does this happen and what can we do?

This is relevant because a teacher can not even address her curriculum, or test to see if her students are gaining the education if he or she can’t even get past the behavior in the classroom. My point is that if we can’t change the way students behave in school, all of our work on curriculum, systems, teacher rights, testing is irrelevant. And we can’t determine if curriculum or testing is being effective if we can’t even begin to teach it properly because of behavior.

Please refer to a post I wrote on another blog of mine about what students think when they are sitting in their desk chair at school. There are many influences on a student’s behavior, much of it deriving from home and community life. But we need to develop a school culture that values children in our schools. They need to feel that this is one of the places that they are people and not a mere body. Kids who feel valued and safe are much more likely to value their education and want to learn. Kids who want to learn will break down all the barriers to education and will succeed. Instead of continuing to work on the exterior parts of education, lets work on developing students who want to learn and feel valued. The rest will come.

How do we do that? First we need school discipline programs that value students, that offer counseling and discover the root causes of behavior so we can help the student with their underlying problem and not the surface problem that brought them to the principal’s office. Detention, in house suspension and out of school suspension literally teach children that they are unwanted. We are essentially in their eyes, “throwing them away” because they are unworthy. And we wonder why we have repeat offenders? Other consequences like community service programs targeting issues that the individual students care about are vital to showing the student how they can have a positive impact on the world. I’ll repeat that.

Community service shows students how they can have a positive impact on the world. Students who feel they have no control over the chaos of their own lives likely never see how they can positively contribute to the world. And they find other likely disruptive and illegal, or just unproductive ways to impact the world. And that is all that they know. We need to find ways to show students how they can positively impact their world so that they can believe it is possible and work towards those goals.

Second, we need school counselors….by the busload. The American School Counselor Association recommends a 250 to 1 ratio of counselors to students and even that is high for an under served population where every child needs personalized attention from a counselor. Reported in 2013 nationally the ratio of school counselors to students in 471. Need more stories on the lack of school counselors? Read here to start.

Counselors have a unique opportunity to listen to students, learn about their passions, encourage their participation in activities that will motivated them to stay in school and want to learn. I have developed a middle school college and career readiness program which is designed to prepare middle school students to be ready and build ownership around their high school career. With the heavy course loads, crisis management, administrative duties, tracking attendance and grades counselors have little time if any time to provide individual or group counseling sessions. Plainly, students are not receiving career and college help. Those who report receiving this guidance tend to be students who are ready for and prepared to go to college from their own family support and resources.

This gap in school counseling resources is directly related to student drop out rates, poor graduation rates, and lack of motivation to learn.

Why is this important to unions? Because teachers will benefit tremendously if they have students who feel valued in school and are motivated to learn. Right now, chances are that is not the case and instead of teaching teachers are managing behavior all day long. If unions want to do something to help teachers be allowed to teach – actively advocate for school discipline and school counseling programs that are going to provide teacher with students who are ready to learn. And I don’t mean a few articles here or there, I mean a campaign. Really make it a national issue that gets paid attention to. Oh and by the way, in stated where teachers are unionized – school counselors fall under the category of “teachers.” School counselors are members of the unions constituency too – what have you done for counselors lately? (Remember students are NOT the unions constituency as I wrote about here previously)