This sounds like pontificating on your part…

I started refuting Anthony Cody’s post in this blog: You know what is on its last legs? Status quo education , Now I continue with his next claim…

Charter schools: We were told that charter schools were where innovation was happening. Freed from the dual constraints of district management and union contracts, these schools were going to show the laggards in public schools how it should be done. Some even claimed to have “figured out” how to overcome the effects of poverty on student achievement. So the billionaire geniuses of corporate reform insisted that all barriers and regulations on charters be removed or minimized. This requirement was written into Race to the Top and NCLB waivers. Want federal money? Better open the door for charter schools. Want special grants from the Gates Foundation? Open the doors to charters in your district.

But now charter proponents admit they have no secret sauce beyond excluding students who are difficult or expensive to educate. Their plan is to “serve the strivers,” and let the rest flounder in an ever-more-burdened public system. The states where regulations are weakest, like Ohio, have charters that perform worse than the public schools, and even the self-described fan of free-markets, Margaret Raymond, lead researcher at CREDO, recently concluded that using market choice to improve schools has failed. In the state of Washington, where Bill Gates and other reform titans spent millions to pass a law allowing charter schools there, the first charter school to open is struggling to stay afloat, having suffered massive staff turnover in its first year. How ironic that 13 years after the corporate reformers labeled their flagship of reform “No Child Left Behind,” that now their leaders are left defending leaving behind the very children they claimed their project would save.

This sounds like pontificating on your part….Can you source this exact language? “But now charter proponents admit they have no secret sauce beyond excluding students who are difficult or expensive to educate.” I’d like to see it. Just because you say it or wrote it does not make it so. (Thought wouldn’t you love it if you could be right for once?)

Yes, there are charters that don’t perform as well as their traditional public schools. Apparently, though I have not seen the evidence or proof myself, some charters expel or exclude some students. But that is NOT a characteristic nationwide. In fact they traditionally operate themselves in areas to serve low income underserved children. You want to talk about expulsions? Why don’t you check on the school discipline policies (or lack thereof) in all of your traditionally public schools and then come back and talk to be about charters expelling.  Take a look at the movement happening in state legislatures nation-wide because of the school suspension issues in ALL schools. Instead of addressing the fact that status quo education policies, including the ineffective school discipline procedures, that are going on in traditional public schools you’re just trying to draw attention elsewhere. Why don’t you clean up your own house?

 You20141105_193833‘ve mentioned Ohio and California. What about all the other charters? Were those the only ones you can find that were under performing? I wish I could point to only  2 states where traditional public schools were underperforming – unfortunately that’s not the case. What about KIPP school? Democracy Prep? Big Picture Learning  Schools? We have some stellar charters here in GA – Drew Charter and Ivy Prep.

 Also, I’ll have you know that I believed that charters were started to try new education strategies for public schools to learn from. Well, I was informed this fall by Howard  Fuller himself, a father of charter schools in MN that charters were not started to test out new ideas for traditional public schools (though I still believe this is a goal we  should strive for), but that they were created simply to offer parents and students an alternative to their only choice of a public school, which may not be meeting student  needs.

 But feel free to keep writing nonsense, because it gives me plenty of material to work with.


What is antiquated about our schools?

When I returned from Washington D.C. to my home state, Rhode Island I remember a distinct interaction. One of the first meetings I went to in 2009 was a public meeting about the potential creation of the Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy. What became very clear to me while teacher after teacher talked about why the school shouldn’t happen – this is about self preservation. If this public charter school group (or anyone for that matter) comes in and says “What you’ve been doing for 30 years is not working,” it leads to instant feelings of defensiveness. No one wants to be told that everything that they have done for their career has been a waste. Even if it were true, no on would choose to believe that.

When it was my turn, my comments were along the lines of: “Our school system is over 150 years old. The schedule is based on students being able to pick crops over the summer. We have been making modest (at best) changes to our school system but it is largely an ancient design. Our teachers have been doing the best they can with the system they have been given. Our schools are not performing as well as we need them to but it’s not entirely the teachers fault. It’s an antiquated school system. Let us work to provide you a newer, better functioning school system based on modern day needs and we want you to be a part of the discussion. But we can’t continue with the structure of the school systems we have today.”

Everything needs to be re-evaluated including:

  • The school year – move away from an agrarian system and into one that doesn’t foster loss of education over a three month break.
    • I would suggest a year long school year with some combination of more frequent breaks of either 1, 2, 3, 4 weeks long.
  • Time of the day that students attend class. I know one argument is that older students need to start school earlier so there is enough time for sports and afterschool activities. Well, find another way to get it done. Have practices or meetings in the morning when you are currently sending students to school, if they are so motivated. Studies show that older students are more awake and more able to learn later in the morning than 7:30AM. Alternatively, these are the student who could feasibly get themselves to school yet they are one of the only groups of students that leaves for school when a parent normally would be able to drop off a younger child. Younger children are often up and ready earlier, but don’t start school until almost 9am? Then parents have to drop off at a school early for “day care” because they need to go to work
    • I would suggest Elementary starts earliest around 7am, then middle school, then high school. But whatever we do, lets back it up with some research not “after school activities.” You can make the buses work with a schedule like I’ve outlined
  • School Discipline & School Counseling – This is a topic I’ve spoke at length about please see: What unions should advocate for to allow teachers to teach
  • Teachers Unions & the laws around teacher salary scales – There was a time when unions were needed to help protect the public and employees. But now we have plenty of labor laws in place and even if you can argue that workers who have jobs where it is difficult to determine performance (such as a factory job) teaching is one where effectiveness can be measured and no job is the same. Why can’t school districts and principals manage their negotiations of their own staff? Why can’t I negotiate my own salary as a potential school counselor? It actually demeans teachers that there is a salary scale.
  • Function of our school buildings – We’ve done a good job I would say with new buildings, but those schools which are stuck in older building are suffering greatly.
  • Learning strategies – it is an antiquated process to have all students sit, all day long and have the teacher “lecture” to the class. Research doesn’t demonstrate that anyone, especially children and young adults are benefited or should be expected to sit all day long. Students should benefit from strategies I’ve seen work with my own sister at the Met Center in Providence, RI which incorporates internships, project based learning, small teacher lead advisories and student presentations on what they’ve learned.
  • Curriculum – I’m ok with common core, but my problem is more related to this common denominator of math, science, social studies & English. Cant we teach the standards without specifically labeling each class one of these 4 subjects? Why can’t every class be more elective based, while also teaching those standards. Can’t you have an astronomy class where you learn math and science? Can’t you have a law class where you learn writing (English) and history and public speaking and how to make arguments?…etc If one room school houses could teach all their students, we could have 9-12 in the same elective based class and provide roles to the student who could do that specific part of the project. Middle School students have an after school class called Model UN, why cant that be a class instead of just an afterschool program?

I could go on…but this getting to be a long post and what else do you think is antiquated about our schools that we should be looking at??

Don’t leave school discipline up to Mr. Petrilli

Found this article by Michael Petrilli: School discipline: Too important to leave to liberals which initially irked me because while I tend to align pretty moderate, I would, in some circles still consider myself a liberal and I have some very important ideas and experiences around school discipline.

Apparently it is an extension of this original article: Charters can do whats best for students who care.

Mr. Petrilli, How much time have you spent in classrooms? Your bio does not indicate any educator experience, but are you qualified to perform much research?! While you are correct about the chaos our schools are in, you are incorrect that not all students “care.” They care but have little or no direction from family or school about how to go about it. You are right that we need:

NY article 1

The kids who need the most guidance and counseling are the kids you describe as trouble makers. And of course you don’t let them “take over the classroom” but you need to sit and listen to them, show them compassion and how they can make a positive impact on the world. Kids generally feel helpless, with no control over their lives (especially the negative circumstances) and they need our love, support, caring and counseling.

Do you disagree that a student who is a “behavioral disturbance” needs a school discipline and climate that you mentioned above? Are you simply stating that not enough traditional public schools don’t have the school discipline systems and climate to effectively influence these students? That, perhaps is an argument to make, and you can go on to talk about all the charters (we know some don’t) that have great school discipline and culture. But do not blame the lack of school resources on the kids and their behavior. I generally appreciate your work and your efforts, but this has clearly, crossed a line. And I am on the side of education reform.

Next, I’d like to see your evidence supporting this statement:

But declaring, as some districts have, that they are going to eliminate suspensions and expulsions entirely is a totally different matter. It’s the educational equivalent of giving up on assertive policing and letting windows stay broken. Most problematically, it elevates the rights of the disruptive students above the needs of their peers. The well-behaved kids—the serious learners—are the ones who will pay the costs.

First, your statement about behaviorally challenged kids is the “educational equivalent” of giving up on kids that you don’t know, or don’t understand, or don’t want to understand. You apparently have not found a way to value all kids and I am very sad about that. I hope those who use your research to implement policy, or whatever it is that we all do with research, understand where you are truly coming from and take your words with a grain of salt.

Second, the only google-able evidence I found of eliminating suspensions completely, were in Southern Indiana.  “In Clark and Floyd counties, Greater Clark County Schools is the only district to completely eliminate expulsions, which occurred in 2010…” They also make use of alternative schools and alternative adult supervised “out-of-school suspension.”

These are other districts who have moved towards policies that reserve suspension for only the most critical cases:

Portland, OR; Boston, MA; State of Maryland; Denver, CO (and here); Los Angeles, CA; Paterson, NJ

In all cases they are moving towards alternative solutions – that actually value students and don’t essentially “throw them away” by suspension. I would very carefully adjust your position on this as it does not line up.

Feel free to advocate that traditional & charter public schools need to have comprehensive school discipline reform but don’t discount the efforts of those who are doing just that.

Also recommend reading a bit about how we can help kids in our schools in this blog post: What do you think about when you sit down to work?

Here is the next post regarding Sarah Blaine’s response to Michael Petrilli – and my opinion of her inaccuracies Focus less on type of school, more on student needs