Storms and Charters

The devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 destroyed most of the infrastructure of New Orleans’ public schools. The storm also largely destroyed the state and local tax bases from which the school district drew its revenues.

Hurricane Katrina displaced 64,000 students and caused $800 million in damage to public school buildings in New Orleans. With state policy opening doors to charters two years earlier, charter schools in New Orleans swept in seizing the moment and filling the spaces left in the wake of Katrina. Though a small but strong group of charter school supporters existed previous to Katrina’s arrival, the mass devastation and disruption caused by this natural disaster created an educational vacuum.  The charter movement quickly expanded its footprint across the city’s parishes.

In September 2017 Hurricane Maria caused over $30 billion in damage to Puerto Rico- leaving most people without homes and drinking water, and everyone without power for a period of time. After the storm, every one of the 1,113 schools across the island was closed. As recently as  early  November,  598 or almost half of the schools are still closed.

More than 140,000 families have left the island since the storm hit September 20, and some experts estimate more than 300,000 more could leave in the coming two years. Schools in the US are dealing with an influx of Puerto Rican students; by some estimates up to 14,000 new students. Many families have gone to Florida, followed by Pennsylvania, Texas, New York and New Jersey (ABC News). This from Orange County (Orlando) Superintendent Jesus Jara:

“Our No. 1 priority from Day 1 was to welcome our fellow American citizens into our community and into our schools, to bring normalcy back into their life,”

Teachers have also fled, many to Florida and Texas, though they have until January 8, 2018 to return and reclaim their jobs (Suarez, 2017).

By the numbers:

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School administrators are considering using the storm, similar to New Orleans, as an opportunity to privatize the public schools.  Puerto Rico’s Education Secretary Julia Keleher has already called New Orleans’s school reform efforts a “point of reference” — tweeting last week that Puerto Ricans “should not underestimate the damage or the opportunity to create new, better schools” (Chavez & Cohn, 2017).

In the midst of a $73 billion debt crisis that pushed the island into a form of bankruptcy and forced hundreds of school closures, Keleher — a former U.S. Department of Education official who has worked since 2007 to transform Puerto Rico’s schools — announced a plan to decentralize the island’s unitary education system (Chavez & Cohn, 2017).

Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center For Education Reform, said reformers “should be thinking about how to recreate the public education system in Puerto Rico.” Allen, who was involved in the New Orleans school reform efforts, says charter operators should be thinking about how they can get involved in Puerto Rico’s post-Maria landscape (Chavez & Cohn, 2017).

You know Einstein said about insanity…

“Puerto Rico has been in an economic depression for over a decade and its schools were struggling before Hurricane Maria. Between 2006 and 2016, 700,000 students left the island. Earlier this year, Puerto Rico closed 200 schools as part of its austerity effort.

“Further, 90 percent of the island’s public-school students were low income before the hurricane. Last year, fewer than half of the island’s students scored proficient in Spanish, math, English, or science. The graduation rate is at 75 percent” (Chavez & Cohn, 2017).

Many educators in Puerto Rico fear the Department’s refusal to open habitable schools is a signal of “permanent closures and school privatization” (Chavez & Cohn, 2017). The department has already estimated up to a fifth of schools will never reopen. School buildings have been used as community centers, but when asked if they will reopen as schools, the answer is vague.
Aida Diaz, President of the island’s teachers’ union, which has 40,000 members, is concerned about Keleher’s reform efforts. “This is why we are reopening the schools, this is why teachers are cleaning and rebuilding those schools. We don’t want anyone to come here and start doing charters here” (Suarez, 2017).
In New Orleans, thousands of veteran teachers were fired, and replaced by reformers-many coming from Teach for America. Advocates are still fighting to regain control of local school boards, and the success of the charters has been slow, and riddled with corruption and failure.
Now, leaders in Puerto Rico are following the model of New Orleans as an exemplar  – or as the Education Secretary called it a “point of reference.”
That reformers would seize the moment to bring their brand of reform to the vulnerable people of the island is difficult to accept. The answer to failing schools is not charters. There is an absence of research to support this reform.  As The Network for Public Education says, ‘another day, another charter scandal’.
To call New Orleans a point of reference is true, but it is a reference of what is wrong with charters, not an exemplar.
These are my reflections for today.
11/17/17
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The devil you know

Last January the education world was rocked by the announcement of Betsy DeVos as the nominee for Secretary of Education. Those of us in the field were riddled with anxiety over her nomination. DeVos is the wife of a billionaire with no experience in public education. She did not attend or send her own children to public schools, and has never worked in a public school. She is, however, a strong advocate for school choice.

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Her tenure as Secretary has been tainted from the start, going back as far as her nomination hearing when she said one reason teachers should have guns is due to the threat of grizzly bears. She is the only cabinet nominee who was given the job by the vice-president’s vote to break the tie.

She visited schools where she was met with protestors. She did not have a clear understanding of the federal role in helping students with disabilities, and no clear understanding of the questionable use of test scores in public schools to measure proficiency. According to the NY Times, “Two weeks after DeVos’s hearing, more than 300 (overwhelmingly Democratic) lawmakers in all 50 states submitted a letter to Congress opposing DeVos. Two powerful national teachers unions helped mobilize thousands of calls to senators’ offices to decry DeVos.”

In July, 18 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against DeVos over the decision to freeze Obama’s borrower defense to repayment which helped forgive student loan debt for people whose for-profit colleges closed amid fraud accusations. Additionally, many senior positions in the department remain unfilled.

Many people in her inner circles have touted her as resilient, focused on her agenda, and unwilling to waiver on her beliefs, despite the constant resistance she has faced from day one. A big blow came when the majority Republican Congress rejected her budget proposal to fund a school choice initiative.

This week the rumor mill has been churning stories of her imminent resignation. Sources close to the Secretary say she has consistently blamed the bureaucracy in Washington as the main reason she has not been able to move her agenda. In a recent interview with Politico magazine, DeVos said the bureaucracy is, “smothering creativity and blocking innovation.”

“Morale is terrible at the department,” said Thomas Toch, the director of FutureEd, an independent education think tank at Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy. “I’ll tell you, in Washington education circles, the conversation is already about the post-DeVos landscape, because the assumption is she won’t stay long. I think she’s been probably one of the most ineffective people to ever hold the job” (Metro).

DeVos’ biggest downfall might be attributed to her lack of experience in government as well as public education. So aside from her agenda of turning over any policies supported by the Obama Administration, and providing more school choice-she brought nothing to Washington.

Politico notes, “When it comes to the most contentious debates surrounding America’s K-12 system — vouchers, standards, incentives, tests — DeVos had more tangible influence as a private citizen in Michigan than she does now in Washington.”

Before you get too excited about her resignation.. turns out there isn’t much to the rumor. It started on social media and came from sources lacking credibility. The source hinting at DeVos’ resignation was updated by the end of the week. “The original article stated that officials were planning for DeVos to exit the Trump administration, it has been updated to state that an insider assumes DeVos “won’t stay long” at her post as education secretary (Salon.com).

I have have been very critical of her since day one and I admit I initially felt a sense of relief at the thought she may have finally recognized she’d met her match in Washington. My relief of her pending resignation was followed by concern. As the expression goes, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.” If DeVos were to resign, who would take her place? I shudder at the thought.

These are my reflections for today.

11/10/17

 

 

 

Et tu, New Jersey?

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On August 29, 2017 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie attended a ribbon cutting ceremony at the opening of the M.E.T.S. Charter School in Newark.  M.E.T.S., which stands for Mathematics, Engineering, Technology and Science (a spin-off of the more popular S.T.E.M. acronym).  M.E.T.S. also operates a school in Jersey City.

Yesterday it was reported the school would close its doors in June 2018. Students currently enrolled as juniors and seniors will finish the rest of the year, while freshmen and sophomores will be sent back to their neighborhood schools. Less than eight weeks after its doors open with the pomp and circumstance that often follow the highly unpopular governor, the doors will close leaving half the 250-student body without a plan.

This is not the first time these M.E.T.S. students have been displaced. In March,  three Newark charter schools — Newark Prep Charter School, Paulo Freire Charter School and Merit Prep Charter School — were on probation for academic problems. After a school performance review, the NJ Department of Education closed the schools. District officials said 110 of the 140 students in grades 10-12 at M.E.T.S. came from the three closed charter schools — Newark Prep, Paulo Freire or Merit Prep (NJ.com).

In a letter sent home to parents, the Board of Trustees cited their reason, “The M.E.T.S. Newark campus cannot in good conscience say that it is currently equipped to provide the highest level of education to the number of students currently enrolled. High school is such a vital time in a young person’s life, and it would be a detriment to our students to not find a truly appropriate placement for them.”

While no specific details have been provided as to exactly why the school is closing, one report noted, Earlier this month, a 15-year-old student was found with a loaded 9MM handgun at the school. The boy was charged with unlawful possession of a weapon in an educational institution (NJ.com).

The letter to parents also stated that M.E.T.S. teachers and administrators were working to ensure a smooth transition. This is a complete disruption of learning to at least half the students, who now go back to their neighborhood school likely behind their public school classmates because of this disruption. They were allowed to open in August and then realized a few weeks into the school year that they were going to fail. I’m wondering how long it took to realize weren’t going to make it. In New Jersey as in so many other states, there is no oversight, or accountability to charters. M.E.T.S.  got the blessings of the governor to open and seven weeks later there’s a conscience? Irresponsible.

The most hypocritical part of the letter to parents, “We remain committed to our 12th graders and want to ensure you that they will receive an outstanding educational opportunity through the end of this school year that will allow you to graduate from M.E.T.S.” (TapIntoNewark)If your child was a senior, would you trust that?

During Christie’s term as Governor, the number of charter schools has increased from 60 to 89.  The website of the Office of the Governor heralded the charter’s opening:

LEGACY OF UNPARALLELED CHARTER SCHOOL GROWTH: Demonstrating his strong commitment to investing in innovative charter schools that outperform and exceed expectations at every level, Governor Christie today helped cut the ribbon for the new M.E.T.S. Charter School high school in Newark, one of 89 charter schools operating in New Jersey this school year.

Further, the website boasts:

EXPANDING CHARTER SCHOOLS TO PROVIDE HIGH-QUALITY EDUCATION TO UNDER-SERVED STUDENTS: Five new schools – two of which are in Newark — are opening this year, approved by the NJ Department of Education after meeting a rigorous, multi-stage approval process. The review process is in place to ensure the school has the structures in place to ensure academic success, equitability, financial viability and organizational soundness.

Christie described charter schools, as “salvation for families” especially those in urban districts. He has set goals for expanding charter school enrollment and proposed a charter school deregulation plan currently pending before the state Board of Education (NJ.com).

Camden Community Charter School, which was slated to have its charter renewed this year was denied because of poor academic performance. (NJ.com). Why have 20 charter schools closed in NJ? Because they were failing. The amount of money taken away from public schools to (partially) fund charter schools has a direct impact on the public school’s ability to do the job of educating students. Every student who walks away from the public school to a charter school takes with him the per pupil spending money. Why are charters allowed to experiment with schools and children? Because the governor lets them. Children should not be part of a social experiment.

Christie wants less accountability and oversight for charters, and to lower the certification standards required for teachers and administrators, at the same time so many charters continue to show their inability to meet the basic academic needs of students in New Jersey who need the most help (NJ.com). 

Deplorable.

These are my reflections for today.

10/20/17

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The Pot and the Kettle

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Last month Facebook revealed it had discovered 450 accounts and about $100,000 in ad spending Russia used during the U.S. presidential campaign. As a result, the company turned over a copy of roughly 3,000 advertisements identified on its platform as spreading covert Russian propaganda. The House and Senate Intelligence Committees have been investigating any connection Facebook had with Russia. The ads in question potentially caused racial, and other social political tensions during the election (ABC News) (NY Times).

If that wasn’t enough bad press, Facebook has also been scrutinized for encouraging fake news.  Rutenberg and Isaac (2017) wrote, “Facebook has faced criticism for giving too much prominence to fake news; for censoring as offensive an iconic Vietnam War photograph of a naked girl fleeing a bombing attack; and for allegations that members of its “trending topics” team, which is now disbanded, penalized news of interest to conservatives”. As such, the company has issued statements on their policy of publishing so called fake news. The policies prohibit ads that are “violent, discriminate based on race or promote the sale of illegal drugs” (Reuters)

A man generally has two reasons for doing a thing. One that sounds good, and a real one.    ~J. Pierpoint Morgan

In January, Facebook hired Campbell Brown, former host on NBC News and CNN, to lead a team to partner with organizations and journalists to work more effectively with Facebook.  “The addition of Ms. Brown comes as Facebook is struggling with its position as a content provider that does not produce its own content — that is, as a platform, not a media company” (NY Times).

What many people may not know about Brown is she is the founder of The 74. From the website, “The 74 is a non-profit, non-partisan news site covering education in America. Our public education system is in crisis. In the United States, less than half of our students can read or do math at grade-level, yet the education debate is dominated by misinformation and political spin. Our mission is to lead an honest, fact-based conversation about how to give America’s 74 million children under the age of 18 the education they deserve” (The 74).

It is no secret Brown has shown her disdain for teacher tenure and teacher’s unions, while supporting charters and vouchers. As the founder of The 74, Brown came out in full support of Betsy DeVos (The 74). Last fall she hosted a Republican Presidential Primary Debate  which was sponsored “solely by the country’s foremost group promoting vouchers, the American Federation for Children, and hosted by her then-new website, the Seventy Four” (Slate).

So much for non-profit and non-partisan.

Then this happened. The Network for Public Education wanted to purchase an ad with Facebook during what they were calling School Privatization week, instead of School Choice Week. According to Diane Ravitch, “We made it a Facebook ad. It was accepted and all was fine. Then, after a few days, Facebook refused our buys and blocked us from boosting any of our posts. We are still blocked from boosting or buying nine months later.”

Ravitch wants to know why Facebook algorithms don’t recognize ads that interfere in our elections but block criticism of School Choice? And why do Facebook algorithms ignore ads placed by Russian propagandists but block ads placed by the Network for Public Education?

Steven Singer, a teacher and public education advocate wrote a recent article called School Choice is a Lie. It Does Not Mean More Options. It Means Less. No sooner had Singer posted the article to his Facebook page, that he was told his story was blocked for one week, and he received a message saying the story “violating community standards.(gadflyonthewall). According to Singer:

This is just an examination of why charter and voucher schools reduce options for parents and students – not increase them.

It’s an argument. I lay out my reasons with reference to facts and make numerous connections to other people’s work and articles.

I don’t understand how that “violates community standards” (gadflyonthewall).

Do you see where this is going? Maybe this is a lesson in what is and what is not acceptable to Facebook. Or maybe it wasn’t acceptable to Campbell Brown because her new job, as noted above is to lead a team to partner with organizations and journalists to work more effectively with Facebook.”  To work more effectively to do what?

On Singer’s ban, Ravitch wrote, “Steven Singer was censored by an algorithm. Or, Steven Singer was censored by the Political Defense team that tries to prevent any criticism of charter schools and TFA. Singer says he’s been posting similar blogs since 2014 without incident. It’s also no secret that Zuckerberg is a big fan of charters and vouchers.

Singer says he has no idea why this particular blog was blocked, and he may never know. I’m curious as to why all of a sudden Facebook is choosing what content will be available, and what will not.

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I’m curious as to the connection through all of this. Coincidence?  I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe it’s the pot calling the kettle black.

These are my reflections for today.

10/13/17

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Charter schools as civil rights issue

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Last summer, the NAACP at their annual convention passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on charter schools until several issues could be explored and addressed. One of the issues with the NAACP was accountability.  Whether charters are public or private, for-profit or not for-profit, these schools are generally not held to the same standard as public schools, though they are supported in part, by public tax dollars.

“The NAACP has been in the forefront of the struggle for and a staunch advocate of free, high-quality, fully and equitably-funded public education for all children,” said Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the National NAACP Board of Directors. “We are dedicated to eliminating the severe racial inequities that continue to plague the education system” (NAACP.org).

That was October 2016. In June 2017, the organization again called for a moratorium.

“With the expansion of charter schools and their concentration in low-income communities, concerns have been raised within the African American community about the quality, accessibility and accountability of some charters, as well as their broader effects on the funding and management of school districts that serve most students of color” (US News).

The continuance was the result of a year-long study of the educational needs of inner-city children and based on hearings held in New Haven, Memphis, Orlando, Los Angeles, Detroit, New Orleans and New York.  Testimony came from educators, administrators, school policy experts, charter school leaders, parents, advocates, community leaders and students to gain insight into public education. The report can be found here.

The NAACP expressed concerns that charters perpetuate segregation, subject students to overly harsh discipline practices, divert funding away from traditional public schools and face weak oversight.

Here are the recommendations from the NAACP Board of Directors:

  • More equitable and adequate funding for all schools serving students of color. Education funding has been inadequate and unequal for students of color for hundreds of years. The United States has one of the most unequal school funding systems of any country in the industrialized world. Resources are highly unequal across states, across districts, and across schools, and they have declined in many communities over the last decade. In 36 states, public school funding has not yet returned to pre-2008 levels-before the great recession, and in many states, inner city schools have experienced the deepest cuts. Federal funds have also declined in real dollar terms for both Title I and for special education expenditures over the last decade.
  • School finance reform is needed. To solve the quality education problems that are at the root of many of the issues, school finance reform is essential to ensure that resources are allocated according to student needs. States should undertake the kinds of weighted student formula reforms that Massachusetts and California have pursued, and the federal government should fully enforce the funding-equity provisions in Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
  • Invest in low-performing schools and schools with significant opportunity to close the achievement gap. Students learn in safe, supportive, and challenging learning environments under the tutelage of well-prepared, caring adults. Participants in every hearing stressed the importance of the type of classroom investments that have consistently been shown to raise student achievement. To ensure that all students receive a high-quality education, federal, state, and local policies need to sufficiently invest in: (1) incentives that attract and retain fully qualified educators, (2) improvements in instructional quality that include creating challenging and inclusive learning environments; and (3) wraparound services for young people, including early childhood education, health and mental health services, extended learning time, and social supports.
  • Mandate a rigorous authoring and renewal process for charters. One way that states and districts can maintain accountability for charter schools is through their regulation of the organizations that authorize charter schools. States with the fewest authorizers have been found to have the strongest charter school outcomes. To do this, states should allow only districts to serve as authorizers, empower those districts to reject applications that do not meet standards, and establish policies for serious and consistent oversight.
  • Eliminate for-profit charter schools. No federal, state, or local taxpayer dollars should be used to fund for-profit charter schools, nor should public funding be sent from nonprofit charters to for-profit charter management companies. The widespread findings of misconduct and poor student performance in for-profit charter schools demand the elimination of these schools. Moreover, allowing for-profit entities to operate schools creates an inherent conflict of interest.

Greg Richmond, President and CEO of Charter Schools Authorizers does not agree with the decision. “A great majority of charter schools are all about opening opportunities for students of color, many of whom were stuck in their failing neighborhood schools until quality charter schools opened their doors” (HuffPost). Richmond believes the moratorium will “hurt the very kids the NAACP represents, the kids on charter school waiting lists, whose parents are desperate for a spot in a school that will help their child succeed (HuffPost).

Here’s my favorite two quotes from Richmond. “Their children need good schools, regardless of who runs them”  And “We believe NAACP can right this bad decision, and join us and others in making schools better for more children of color” (HuffPost).

Look closely at what the NAACP is asking for, and you’ll see it really isn’t anything absurd, and charter advocates should support the recommendations- if their motivation is in the best interest of students.  The organization is not asking to shut down charters, only to ensure they are equitable and accountable. So why the protest from Richmond?

Richmond and others sell charters as a civil rights cause, when they are actually segregating public schools even more. The Network for Public Education (NPE) recently wrote how charter schools and voucher programs result in, “separate, unequal schools that isolate black and Hispanic students, English language learners, and students with disabilities in schools with fewer resources and less experienced teachers.”

This is from the National Education Policy Center (2010)

A national study of charter school operated by education management organizations (EMOs) found only one-fourth of these schools had a racial composition similar to public schools. Over 70% had extreme concentrations of either high-income or low-income students. These schools consistently enrolled a lower proportion of special education children than public schools. And well over half the charters did not have a population of English language learners (ELLs) similar to public schools.

NPE addresses the true civil rights issue of charters and vouchers.

The Civil Rights Movement taught us that separate schools for different children will never be equal. Concentrating low-income and minority students, students whose first language isn’t English, and students with disabilities in segregated schools is not a solution for improving the well-being of all children. We need a public system that is about advancing the well-being of all, not just helping some families and children get ahead while leaving the rest behind (Network for Public Education).

What would motivate the NAACP to call for a moratorium?  What would motivate the Charter Schools Authorizers to speak out against a moratorium? What if we put all our energy into strengthening public schools and stop taking money away from schools for social experiments and service opportunities?

How’s that for an idea?

These are my reflections for today.
8/18/2017
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Did you hear the one about _____?

While many of us are busy enjoying the waning days of summer – here's a few stories you may have missed. Maybe they were buried under so much other news dominating the front pages.

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So what if it doesn't work?  The Brookings Institute compiled data for two years on the effectiveness of voucher programs. Four studies with four different research designs came to the same conclusion: “On average, students that use vouchers to attend private schools do less well on tests than similar students that do not attend private schools” (Newsday).  What the study found was that students who remained in voucher programs for three to four years began to make up for what they lost academically in the first two years. What this means is after three or four years of a voucher education supported by taxpayers, students gain some ground but only end up where they would have been without them.

Florida charter dodges a bullet.  A charter school which had received a failing grade (F) for two consecutive years (and D's before that) has closed  but… wait for it…. will reopen as a private school, thus still able to siphon $170 million from the public schools to open as The Orange Park Performing Arts Academy. Administrators have already assured students and parents that they are all eligible to receive scholarships from the state of Florida (Clay Today Online).

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How much for that Governor?  Carol Burris reported this week just exactly how much money has been contributed to Governor Andrew Cuomo (The Answer Sheet)The corporation with the largest number of charter schools under the control of the SUNY Charter School Institute is the Success Academy charter chain, run by Eva Moskowitz.  Her political action committee, the Great Public Schools PAC, contributed $65,000 to Cuomo in 2011-2012 and another $50,000 to date in 2017. Success Academy Chairman Daniel Loeb, founder and chief executive of Third Rock Capital, and his wife, have directly contributed over $133,000 to Cuomo. Since 2015, Loeb has added $300,000 to Moskowitz’s PAC, and another $270,000 to other PACs that support Cuomo. That’s more than $700,000.

Sorry, kids it's just not working out.  Two homeless students in a New Orleans charter school were suspended for not having the right uniforms (Alternet.org). The two boys, ages 7 and 10 showed up wearing new sneakers their mother borrowed money to buy. The school requires solid black shoes, and when the boys showed up wearing sneakers with check marks on them, they were sent home. "Their mother covered up the checks using a black marker, which she thought took care of the problem, but the school said that wasn’t good enough and unless they were in compliance, they couldn’t come back to school" (Alternet.org).

Show me the money. In the City of Brotherly Love is a charter school call Khepera in North Philly has a pretty bad track record. According to Philly.com Khepera has had some problems:

  • Closed early last year because of financial problems.
  • Teachers are still owed back pay.
  • The landlord has gone to court to kick the school out of its building because of unpaid rent.
  • The company that provides special-education teachers, substitutes, and counselors has filed suit, alleging it is owed $90,000 for its staffing services.
  • Khepera failed to make $1 million in payments to the state teachers’ pension fund.
  • The school failed to submit annual financial reports for 2015 and 2016, as required by state law.

The School Reform Commission (SRC) voted in June to begin the process of revoking Khepera's charter. While the SRC considers the fate of the charter, the school will still receive a $400,000 payment from the School District for the academic school year.

It costs how much?  Politico reports this week that the U.S. Marshals Service will charge the government almost $8 million to protect Secretary DeVos for the next six months.  How does that compare? The past four Education secretaries have been protected by the Education Department’s own small security force.

And finally…

Wait, what???  According to Matt Barnum, in 2015-16 something like half of New York City teachers were evaluated in part, by tests in subjects or of students they didn’t teach. While it may only be 53% of the teachers, that number is actually lower than in previous years (City and State).

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These are my reflections for today.

8/11/2017

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A mediocre teacher in every classroom

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In what may be considered a blessing, charter schools are having trouble staffing their schools. To solve that problem in New York, the State University of New York (SUNY) Charter School Institute is going to make it easier to “certify” teachers to staff their charter schools.

Currently in New York, to obtain a teaching license one must earn a graduate degree in education from an accredited university and pass some sort of test or performance assessment. Other states require either a 4 year degree/certification program or a two year alternate route as many states offer as well as the test and/or performance assessment.

According to the New York Times the SUNY proposal states, along with a Bachelor’s Degree, “candidates must have a minimum of 100 hours of ‘field experience’ under the supervision of another teacher, a requirement that could be fulfilled in about two and a half weeks of school.” The  proposal under consideration includes a minimum of 30 hours of classroom instruction. “If, when its charter comes up for renewal, the school is able to show its teachers are producing successful students, the program would be allowed to continue” (Times Union). This certification would apply only to teachers in SUNY charter schools.

Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers hammers back:

“The state requires prospective cosmetologists to receive 1,000 hours of specialized instruction and real estate brokers to get 120 hours of instruction and two years of field experience,” Mulgrew said in his letter to Joseph W. Belluck, the chair of the Charter School Committee at SUNY in Albany. “But SUNY’s proposed regulations would, in essence, let charter schools — many of which have admitted having difficulty hiring and retaining certified teachers — create their own special teaching licenses for anyone who finishes one week of specialized instruction and works only 100 hours in a classroom under the supervision of another teacher or administrator, including those who are not themselves certified” (UFT.org).

Charter school advocates say the proposal would help schools struggling to find quality teachers who are certified in New York.

This begs the question, what defines quality teachers? Put it simply, would you rather have a teacher who graduated from an accredited teacher education program who has passed all the requirements for graduation and state licensure? Or would you rather someone with a Bachelor’s degree in anything and 30 hours of classroom instruction on teaching and no certification, no passing score on a performance assessment, and no pedagogical training? This will not produce quality teachers.

The question I continue to ask, because it frustrates me the most is why aren’t these charter schools opening in affluent suburban communities? (*most charters in NY are in NYC).  Because I have taught in both urban and suburban areas, I am confident when I say a charter school in a middle or high income district, staffed by unlicensed and inexperienced teachers would go over like a lead balloon. But that’s not where the charters are opening.

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Maria Bautista of the Alliance for a Quality Education said the proposed changes are racist.

“We know they’re going to disproportionately impact black and brown children,” Bautista said at a recent SUNY Charter School Committee hearing. “You would never have uncertified teachers teach your children. Why is it OK for black and brown children? That is not OK” (wbfo).

On every level, that is not OK. It’s not okay for the teaching profession, and it’s not okay for the minority and low-income children this will directly impact. Is there an expectation of ignorance with these decisions? Is the SUNY Charter Institute counting on this being an 11th hour decision when no one is paying attention? Yes and Yes.

The following statement comes from the 1983 report from President Ronald Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education. This report was considered by many to be a landmark event in modern American educational history.  “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform” was controversial at the time, as many believed it did not go far enough to report on the effects of poverty, as low achievement was equated to poor schools instead of neglected communities.  

Our Nation is at risk. Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world. This report is concerned with only one of the many causes and dimensions of the problem, but it is the one that undergirds American prosperity, security, and civility. We report to the American people that while we can take justifiable pride in what our schools and colleges have historically accomplished and contributed to the United States and the well-being of its people, the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people (ed.gov.).

a rising tide of mediocrity – We have persistently failed to address the economic and social injustices that created these communities and then blame schools and teachers for students’ failure. The solution is not to lower the bar of teacher qualifications, rather we should do the opposite. Teach and train more people to be effective in our classrooms-both urban and suburban. Hold teachers to a high standard, and give them the tools they need to succeed.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) a French moralist and essayist once said, “Mediocrity is excellent to the eyes of mediocre people.” As a nation, we must expect excellence in our teachers who will bring out excellence in our students. Anything less is simply unacceptable.

These are my reflections for today.

8/4/2017

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