Notes from New York – Our forum with Diane Ravitch (& other tales)

New York was great. It was fabulous to meet our fellow parent activists from across the nation and share a panel with Diane Ravitch.

Blog coverage of our inaugural Parents Across America forum can be found at the PAA site, Ed Notes here, and hereGotham Schools, Posterous.com, Mannahattamamma.com and Schools Matter

Footage of speeches by Dr. Ravitch, Karren Harper Royal and Leonie Haimson can be found here and here.

There were some great questions and comments from the audience. Wish we’d had time for more. One teacher asked if we could cite any “small successes” in the national grassroots struggle to wrest our schools  from the corporate privatizers and punitive ed reforms. Excellent question. Here in Seattle, bloggers and parent activists have brought to light many issues and have helped inform the community about what’s going on in the school district, and have influenced policy decisions. But we really should collect these success stories and share them. More on this in future posts.

To the former TFA-er selling a testing product I wanted to say I have no issues with earnest young people who want to help poor communities. I was an earnest young person myself once….! And one of my friends here in Seattle is a former TFA-er. But he is an anomaly in that he has stayed in the teaching profession and been a lifelong genuine activist for the rights of poor and minority kids. He’s not selling a testing product; he’s still teaching public school kids.

FOUR NEWS ITEMS OF INTEREST

While I was in town, the New York Times reported that college readiness in the city and state are not what they should be. I would like to see the study, though, because we had a similar report here in Seattle that turned out to be bogus and may have cost the author (a Broad Resident) his job.

Interestingly, according to this report, charter schools statewide are doing worse than traditional schools.

I was also gratified to see new Governor Cuomo cast a jaundiced eye on the bloated salaries of school superintendents. Here in Seattle, our School Supt. (Broad trained) Goodloe-Johnson makes upwards of $264,000 plus perqs (car allowance, retirement fund) that puts her total take closer to $300,000.  She makes more than our mayor or governor, and more than New York’s school chancellor ($250,000), even though Seattle has only 47,000 students compared to New York’s 1.1 million. According to the Educational Research Service, the national average is $160,000. These generous salaries seem to be the new norm with the current trend of Broad Foundation-trained superintendents who operate as CEOs with a gun-for-hire mentality. It strikes many of us parents as pretty tone deaf in this economy when these same superintendents and chancellors are laying off our kids’ teachers and counselors and cramming our kids into overstuffed classrooms, claiming there is no money for such trifles. (Have I mentioned that our supt also threw a $7,000 party on the district credit card while cutting back on services for our kids? The state auditors were not impressed. Note: The auditor found about $3,800 in expenses charged to the district credit card. Local parent activist & blogger Melissa Westbrook uncovered more related expenses and details including a carving station, which brought the actual total to closer to $7,000.)

So yes, if Gov. Cuomo can bring some sense and cents back to superintendent salaries that would be a welcome development.

In other news, Michelle Rhee’s fiance, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, was in the news again in this article from USA Today about the patterns of misuse of AmeriCorps volunteers and money. Sounds like this has never been resolved. I still wonder about the Archibald Cox-like firing of Inspector General Gerald Walpin. He was investigating the Johnson affair and other issues and was summarily fired by President Obama.

And last but not least, the sad remains of the Village Voice led its Feb. 4 issue with a puff piece about a new charter school in New York run by Eva Moscowitz, written by Steven Thrasher who could easily join the p.r. team for the “Success” charter company. So seduced is he by the militaristic, time-obsessed, uniformity mindset of “Success Academy” where primarily poor kids of color are trained to “shut up,” that by the end of the article he has even bought into their terminology and is referring to the schoolkids in  the story as “scholars,” and dissing the public schools for gifted kids. (I don’t know how it works in NYC, but here in Seattle, the gifted programs, along with the Special Ed or English Language Learner programs, are designed for kids with special needs and you kind of have to have the need to join the program, so it’s not clear why Thrasher was comparing the Success Charter to these schools.)

Anyway, here it is: “Class Struggles at a Bronx Charter School: Bronx Success Academy 1 may not quiet its critics, but it’s doing a good job making its kids shut up and pay attention.”

Alas, poor Yorick, is all I can say about the Voice.

–Sue p.


2 comments

  1. Speaking of College readiness. Here is how things are going in that regard in Seattle. Facts 1 : Facts 2

    Common Core Standards will be yet another expensive proposition that will do little for the struggling learners in the classroom.
    Info here.

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