Kelly Munn with the League of Education Voters shared with her LEV “Key Activists” including WSPTA lobbyist Ramona Hattendorf, a summary of the charter school bill that will be proposed by one of our state representatives. I decided to have some fun with it and review the summary adding my comments along the way. Ms. Munn’s summary will be in italics.
Before I get started on this summary I would like to point you to the NAACP resolution on charter schools and a recent article in The Knight’s Party titled Segregated Schools Evoke Separate but Equal Era in U.S..
Now on to Ms. Munn’s summary of the upcoming charter school bill proposal.
Bill #2: Address inequities in student opportunities through proven, outcomes-based alternatives
OK, let’s start with “proven, outcomes-based alternatives”.
We have highly successful alternative schools from TOPS to Nova High School that have proven track records. Nova has been around for over 40 years and their students last year had the highest scores in the Language Arts in the district. Nova is an all-district draw as are the other alternative schools in Seattle. Most of the schools have waiting lists which reflect their desirability among students and parents.
Being a parent of a Nova student who graduated last year, I can attest to the awesome program that the school has led by a talented educator and populated with some of the best and dedicated teachers that I have come across in my many years as a student, parent and educator.
There is the APP program, the Montessori programs that are offered, the International Baccalaureate programs and schools such as Aviation High School in Shoreline which one can find throughout the state.
Now, let’s look at these charter schools that Ms.Munn is touting.
You only have to go as far as the studies and papers that have been completed on charter schools to find that they are not the silver bullet to our under-funded public schools. See What is a Charter School?
So let’s get back to this “summary”.
In Washington, students from low-income families and students of color have fewer academic and economic opportunities than the population as a whole – and the problem is getting worse. The opportunity gap is created by inequitable access to quality schools, educators and educational programs, as well as the inequitable allocation of resources across communities. Too often, a student’s zip code dictates the student’s academic and career opportunities.
Ah yes, the “achievement/opportunity gap” that is the raison d’être for the corporate reformers existence.
As I just stated, the alternative schools are an all-district draw as are other programs.
The issue with students in poverty is that they are in poverty. Unfortunately, the majority of children in poverty are children who represent the minority groups in our country. This is something that the 1% who are fueling the charge for the privatization of our public schools willingly choose to ignore, otherwise they would have to begin to pay their fair share.
Clothe these children, ensure that they are well fed and that their health needs are met, provide for them a stable home life, including having a roof over their heads, and then you can begin to educate these children. Only when a child is refreshed with a good night’s rest, fed, dressed properly and without too many psychological or health concerns, are they ready to learn. Any teacher or principal can attest to this.
Charter schools within this context are just an empty promise.
No student should be forced to stay in a chronically under-performing school. Additional opportunities should be given to these students, through two proven, outcomes-based alternatives.
This plays into the neighborhood schools concept that our Broad trained superintendent did, the resegregation of our schools. And don’t think that this wasn’t done on purpose. It was part of the Broad agenda. If there is no need, create one.
Before this change, a student could go to any school in the city. It was in response to school segregation. Then our former Broad-trained superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, resegregated our schools and tried unsuccessfully to decimate the alternative school and APP programs. Remember, Broad is all about charter schools. Don’t think for a moment that this wasn’t part of an overall plan to introduce the idea of charter schools into Seattle and our state.
Again, what has been proven is that if you provide students with a fighting chance in terms of care and resources, they will succeed. Charter schools have nothing to do with that.
Establish a Transformation Zone. Build on Washington’s existing intervention authority in the lowest-performing schools by creating a Transformation Zone. This zone should oversee the supervision, development and encouragement of school improvement efforts, which includes:
Thanks to the lobbying efforts of Ramona Hattendorf last year on the behalf of the Washington State PTA, we have the first step in place for the corporate takeover of our schools by pushing for and receiving the approval of Bill 6696, which includes all of the demands of Race to the Top except for the establishment of charter schools. One of those demands includes the intervention on the part of the district or the state to close a school down, fire half of the school staff or the principal if test scores go below a certain point. Dr. Susan Enfield, our interim superintendent, along with Executive Director Bree Dusseault, tried to do that with one our Seattle high schools but it was an unsuccessful attempt on both of their parts. The principal who they fired was well-loved and respected. There was so much pushback that the principal was reinstated. Interestingly enough, the executive director for that region, Bree Dusseault, is a former charter school administrator from New Orleans who most recently worked at the Center on Reinventing Public Education. Her husband is a former TFAer who worked in our Seattle Public School for one year before deciding to go out on his own and become a one man band for the dissolution of the teachers’ union in Seattle and a cheerleader for TFA, Inc.
This is also where our previous Broad-trained superintendent’s idea of school report cards comes into play and the focus on MAP testing. In the last several years around the country, the process used to turn “low performing” public schools into charter schools followed Arne Duncan’s Renaissance 2010 policy that he started in Chicago of closing and then “turning around” a school into a charter school. Call it the corporate takeover of our public schools.
And before a district or the state intervenes on the behalf of any school, the principal and teachers should be asked the question of what would help their students succeed. Principals, teachers and parents know what their students need, CMO’s don’t.
And speaking of CMO’s:
* Contracting out the management of low-performing schools – or the entire district – to proven learning management organizations.
You can call this the corporate takeover of our public schools.
This is in reference to charter management companies, CMO’s. These are companies that basically run charter schools and would otherwise take the place of what happens in a school district’s office. But now, we would be paying twice for the same service, one through the public school administrative offices in the Stanford Center, and the other through a private profit-making agency.
And “proven learning management organizations”? First, let’s drop the word “organizations”. These are profit-making companies whether they are under the guise of a “non-profit” or not. NWEA is a “non-profit” that makes millions of dollars each year on selling testing products to schools as they did with the MAP test in Seattle. TFA, Inc. is a “non-profit” that is bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars each year in untaxed income with the CEO’s drawing large salaries. And yes, TFA is incorporated. How’s that for a “non-profit”?
And “proven”? Check out this article by Jim Horn at Schools Matter, New Charter Study by Mathematica With More Bad news for Corporate Ed Reform.
* Requiring the use of performance contracts and revoking contracts if building managers fail to meet them.
“Performance contracts”? Are we talking about student test scores? And who are these “building managers”, principals?
* Allowing flexible use of funds to implement innovative reforms, such as strategic staffing, longer school year, longer school days and technology-based learning.
“Funds”? What funds? Our schools’ budgets have been cut to the bone. Governor Gregoire floated the idea recently of cutting the school week to four days to save money in our state. “Strategic staffing”? Please don’t be referring to Teach for America, Inc. temps. A “longer school year” and “longer school days”? How, by hiring non-union teachers at low wages to teach our most vulnerable? Exactly what part of that makes sense?
At one time we did have a longer school day and year and I am not opposed to that but with the progressive cutting of funding in education, school districts have cut back on their budgets and over time we have lost hours and days to make up for a lack of funding. Fund our schools and we will have sufficient time for students to have with their teachers in a supportive learning environment.
And “technology based learning” means “online learning” which means putting students in front of computer screens for the greater part of a school day. I was privy to a conversation on the League of Education Voters list serv where a school board member in Shoreline was espousing how one teacher could manage 50 students in a classroom by using the Rocketship online learning program. Just a couple of hours of face time each week for each student and the rest of the time the student is in front of the computer screen. Life doesn’t get much better than that!
Imagine that for innovation folks. Not for my child, how about yours?
* Recognizing employees’ rights to collectively bargain.
That’s called a teacher’s union. This is how the charter school folks would try to make an end run around the teacher’s union, by having these “Innovation Schools” trade more flexibility in their programs, which they should have anyway, for the teachers relinquishing their union protections.
This came up recently between union leaders and the teachers and has been tabled for now.
* Attracting the best teachers by providing increased support and autonomy.
There are far more applicants than teaching positions in our state. We have two colleges of education in Seattle alone with well-qualified graduates knocking on our door every year.
What our teachers need is fair pay and support in terms of resources. Autonomy? Some of the alternative schools and STEM have received waivers in terms of the standardized curriculum. Schools who want autonomy can receive it.
* Attracting high-performing principals to work in Transformation Zone schools through increased pay; and increased autonomy and flexibility to manage budgets, time and curriculum; and to hire, assign, reassign and dismiss staff.
This one baffles me because principals have the autonomy to manage the school’s budget, such as it might be, and to hire, assign and dismiss staff. If they don’t, then that should be a district issue.
Authorize Public Charter Schools. Forty-one states allow public charter schools; Washington does not. In many of these states, non-profit charter management operators (CMOs) have succeeded where traditional public schools have not.
First, read the NAACP’s resolution regarding charter schools. Yes, charter schools have populated urban areas between LA and New York with varying degrees of “success” but one of these minority groups, as represented by the NAACP, does not see charter schools as the answer.
I’ll be doing a separate post on CMO’s. They seem to be using the term charter schools and CMO’s interchangeably but they are different animals. A charter school is a school. A CMO manages and operates several charter schools.
In recent years, the research on charter school effectiveness has grown, enabling us to identify effective providers and practices through data. The data show that, if properly managed, charters are an effective alternative for students in chronically under-performing schools.
Well, that statement is incorrect. See the post “What is a charter school?” where studies and papers are listed regarding charter schools and their “effectiveness”.
Washington should establish a public charter school law that learns from other states’ experiences and replicates best practices:
* Promote public charter schools that focus on educationally disadvantaged students.
Again, read the NAACP resolution on charter schools.
* Require public oversight by, and accountability to, the State Board of Education or similar state agency.
That has not worked in other states. See: Lack of oversight failing Hawaii’s charter school students, Lack of oversight an issue for model charter school system, Philadelphia: Fraud and Special Investigations: Review of Charter School Oversight, Florida charter schools: big money, little oversight, and Charter School Industry Running Amok in Florida with Taxpayer Dollars
* Recognize employees’ rights to collectively bargain.
Don’t have to worry about that. That’s what a teachers’ union is all about.
* Require open student enrollment
Alternative schools have that now and the Seattle Public School system needs to go back to that system.
* Require admission by lottery, when demand is greater than capacity.
6. “Lottery”. Oh yes, the famous lottery scene in Waiting for Superman. The lottery is hype, a hoax of sorts. It creates a desire and excitement, a sense that this school is so important that you have to be part of a lottery to be selected. Exactly what part of that is democratic? In the successful alternative schools system within Seattle, it is first come, first served. If there is not enough room, and many times there isn’t, the student is placed on a waiting list and you start at the top of the waiting list. No lottery, no Hollywood hype, just a fair and reasonable process.
* Allow only qualified, public benefit non-profit organizations governed by boards of directors, to be eligible to apply to operate public charter schools.
For profit or non-profit, it doesn’t matter. “Public benefit”? Never heard of that in terms of a charter school. The board of directors are typically selected by the CEO of the charter school and are usually NOT made up of parents.
* Limit the number of public charter school authorizers.
* Establish a public charter school cap.
As per the post I wrote What to expect in January from the corporate privatizers in the state of Washington:
1. There would be a cap on the number of charter schools in the state. Now, don’t let that fool you. There is a push by Arne Duncan and Obama right now for states to remove the cap on charter schools to receive more federal money. Also, the state can increase the cap yearly. Once these privatizers get their foot in the door, it’s all over, they won’t stop, not when it comes to money. It gets down to a matter of greed and that cannot be legislated out of a person’s soul.
* Establish a rigorous process for closing poor-performing public charter schools.
The unfortunate outcome of many charter schools is that they close for various reasons creating additional instability within a community.
In conclusion, we don’t need our schools privatized. What we do need is for our legislators to fully fund our schools as is their paramount duty in the state of Washington.