TFA Makes A Statement On DeVos

Today Betsy DeVos was offered and accepted the Secretary of Education position in Trump’s cabinet.  Her entire strategy for improving this country’s schools can, it seems, be boiled down to one word:  “choice.”

Here is a speech she made in 2014 which includes this quote “The traditional education industry is really good at two things:  Bucking and criticizing change and protecting grown up jobs.”

 

Her theory of the power of choice fits in well with Trump’s idea to divert $20 billion in federal money from public schools for school choice including vouchers for private school.  Trump, in the announcement, said “Under her leadership, we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families.”

One thing Teach For America is quite good at is promoting itself and the modern ed ‘reform’ movement.  During the Obama administration, especially, TFA has gotten a lot of taxpayer money to help grow and has been very public about supporting various reform strategies, like Common Core and school and teacher accountability based on value-added teacher ratings.  When the reform movement rebranded itself a bit by replacing Arne Duncan with John King, TFA also softened their tone on the ‘status quo’ and other reform mantras.

From a financial point of view, it is good for TFA for Trump to be president.  Not only will TFA get a lot of money for proving that union teachers are a bunch of free loaders, but the charter schools that spouses of TFA higher ups run (Both founder Wendy Kopp and CEO Elisa Villanueva-Beard are married to people who are major players in the KIPP and YES charter chains) will be getting a disproportionate piece of that $20 billion if it happens.

But TFA also a social justice organization.  They are proud of their 150 DACA corps members and they fight, in their own way, against many forms of discrimination.  So when Trump was elected, Villanueva-Beard wrote about her concerns.

Then, today, after the DeVos announcement, TFA wrote a ‘statement’ on it.  The statement began:

Following the president-elect’s indisputably hostile and racially charged campaign that on many points was in conflict with Teach For America’s core values and mission, the organization today released a statement on the occasion of the appointment of Secretary Designate Betsy DeVos to the U.S. Department of Education:

Teach For America lives by our values and always stands in solidarity with the most vulnerable students. The children we work for, and we ourselves, are Native, Black, Jewish, Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander, White, Immigrant, Muslim, LGBTQ, living with disabilities, and more. The Teach For America community includes more than 50,000 people from all backgrounds and political ideologies. We value diversity, equity, and inclusiveness, and we refuse to accept racism, bigotry, or discrimination in any form.

We call on the secretary designee and president-elect to uphold these values in pursuit of an excellent and equitable public education for all. We have worked in a bipartisan way to advance educational opportunities specifically for low-income communities and communities of color. We will continue to fiercely advocate and defend policies that are core to our mission and that increase opportunity for our students, including:

What followed were these eleven ‘policies’.

Of the eleven, five of them (DACA, Higher Education Act, and Safe classrooms LGBTQ, students with disabilities, and Muslim students) seem to be in response to Trump’s tone throughout the campaign.  Had TFA just had these five, I don’t think there would be much to write about here.

Two of the policies (culturally responsive teaching and halting the school-to-prison pipeline) are kind of strange to put on this list.  Not that these aren’t good things, but I think they are pretty nebulous and I don’t think the Secretary of Education is that involved with either of those two anyway.

One of the policies is about the commitment to national service which, to me, seems to be a way of saying that TFA should continue getting their taxpayer allowance, even as their recruitment numbers have been shrinking over the past few years.

The remaining three are the most revealing to me as they promote the typical reformer mantras.

There’s policy number two about high standards.  This could be a plea to not oppose the Common Core which TFA has been very supportive of.  In the new ESEA, state’s don’t have to use the Common Core, specifically, but they do need to have “challenging academic standards” which, I believe, the Secretary of Education may have the power to approve or not.  My problem with forcing states to have “challenging academic standards” is that it implies that teachers, because they are lazy and/or negligent, have been purposely teaching at a much lower level than they should be.  I don’t believe this to be true and I see it as a form of teacher bashing to imply that.

Then there’s policy number eight about ‘accountability.’  Accountability has been used as a weapon to fire teachers and close schools throughout the country based on highly flawed metrics.  Obama and Duncan did a lot of damage with this one and maybe TFA feels that they used it in a fair way, even if I don’t.  But that same weapon in the hands of Trump and DeVos should be something that TFA should be concerned about.  I don’t think that this was something that TFA needed to ask the new Secretary to be vigilant.  Based on the contempt she has shown for public schools and teachers over the years, it’s pretty clear that DeVos will use her power to try to make it even easier to fire teachers and close schools.  This could have a negative effect on not just all the TFA alumni who are still working in public schools, but also for the ones who are at the few charter schools that try to keep their most needy students and whose test scores suffer for it.  In the bigger picture, I think that having DeVos too strong on accountability will negatively affect so many students in this country.

Finally there’s policy number nine about using “evidence and data” to ‘drive’ “teacher improvement and development over time.”  This is code for trying to use test scores and value-added metrics to rate teachers, no matter how inaccurate those metrics are.

More telling than the policies TFA chose to include on this list is the ones they chose to exclude.  Knowing that DeVos is planning to use her power to divert funds from the public schools (and charter schools too) for vouchers for private schools, perhaps TFA could have asked that she not cut funding to schools.  Knowing how much contempt DeVos has shown toward public school teachers, TFA could asked her not to bash teachers so much.  Knowing that DeVos has funded reform propaganda sites like Campbell Brown’s The Seventy Four, TFA could have suggested that she spend time in public schools and see what great work is being done.

There’s a lot they could have said to help stave off the at least four year battle everyone in non-charter schools is going to have to fight daily.  Instead they padded their valid concerns about discrimination with a bunch of reform code.

Of their nine policies that TFA is urging DeVos to consider (three of the eleven are basically saying, make schools safe for all students), six of them are things that she was already on board with.  It’s the TFA way of saying “We are already in agreement with you on most things so you can trust us and work with us to help you out in general.”  They seem to care more about their own survival and the continuation of Duncan’s reform strategies than they do about the potential damage that the Trump / DeVos duo can wreak on the children of this country.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

P-Tech Principal Responds

Last week I wrote a post about the latest exaggerated claim about the success of the P-Tech high school in New York City.  P-Tech is a ‘miracle’ school that Joel Klein is very proud of and even Obama once touted it in a State of The Union address.

The claim tweeted by the principal of P-Tech and retweeted by Klein was that the school has 83% of its students ‘college ready’ in math which would make it one of the top schools in the city by that metric.  I investigated and found that there are several ‘college ready’ in math metrics and by all of the others, P-Tech has some of the lowest ‘college ready’ in math numbers.

Students in New York are deemed ‘college ready’ in math if they can get over an 80 on one of the three math Regents exams.  Algebra I is generally taken in 9th grade, Geometry in 10th grade, and Algebra II in 11th grade.  The school had about 11% of its students scoring over an 80 on Algebra I, about 2% scoring over an 80 in Geometry, and 0% scoring over an 80 in Algebra II.  Where the 83% number came from, I haven’t figured out yet.

If P-Tech students really were proficient in 9th grade Algebra I, then they should perform nearly as well in Geometry since it is the next course.  But their 1.6% getting college ready in Geometry is a relevant statistic I think since if they peak in 9th grade (advanced 8th graders often take the Algebra I Regents, actually) that would not make someone ready for college after graduating.  So I showed in a scatter plot that P-Tech had the lowest Geometry scores, by a wide margin, than any other schools that had a comparable generic ‘college ready’ in math score.

ptech2

 

The principal of P-Tech responded:

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-9-18-20-pm

So Davis is saying that it is not fair to compare his schools Geometry college ready numbers to schools that had comparable generic math college ready numbers since those other schools did not have 86% Black students and did not have 8th grade incoming scores of 2.31 out of 4.

So to address this concern that my comparisons were unfair, I produced two new scatter plots.  One compares percent of Black students to percent of students scoring ‘college ready’ in Geometry.  P-Tech is the yellow dot.  As can be seen, P-Tech is hardly an ‘outlier.’  It is actually one of the lowest performing schools with between 80% and 90% Black students.

ptech3

Then I made a plot comparing incoming 8th grade scores to Geometry college ready percentages for all high schools.  Again the P-Tech yellow dot is way at the bottom, even for other schools whose incoming students had 8th grade scores around 2.3 like theirs.

ptech4

So I believe I’ve addressed all the concerns that the principal had about my original plot being somehow unfair comparisons.  I will share this post with him and report back if he believes that these plots are also unfair comparisons.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Are P-TECH Students College Ready?

Perhaps the most overrated school in reformer folklore is the Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, in Brooklyn, New York.

Since opening five years ago, they have been featured in national news reports, visited by President Obama, and touted by President Obama in a State of The Union address.

Though a partnership with IBM, students at P-TECH, so the theory goes, go to school there for 6 years and earn a high school diploma and an associates degree in some kind of technology field.  Qualified students get job offers at IBM.

I’ve tracked this school for several years and out of all the miracle schools I’ve ‘debunked’ over the years, this was the simplest one to do.  Despite all their claims, I was able to easily find on the New York City public data site that P-TECH’s Regents scores are some of the lowest in the city.  I’ve written about this school several times over the years.

So imagine my surprise when I see Joel Klein retweeting yet another miracle claim, this one by the principal of P-TECH, Rashid Davis.

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-10-52-44-pm

Included in Davis’ tweet is this chart showing that students at P-TECH have some of the highest ‘Percentage Attaining Math College Readiness Standard’ in the city.

ctnx8igw8aauvtd

In New York state, from my understanding, ‘college ready in math’ means that a student has gotten an 80 on one of the math regents.  There are three math regents, Algebra 1 taken mainly by 9th graders, Geometry, taken by 10th graders, and Algebra II, by 11th graders.  There is a very generous curve on these tests where getting an 80 on Algebra 1 can be done by getting 59% of the possible points.  But even as inflated this statistic is, it still seems noteworthy that P-TECH seems to have students who are more ready for college than nearly all of the 500 high schools.

But this didn’t seem possible to me based on their regents scores.  So I took another look.

Using the public data site located here I found the database from which this statistic came.  In that same database I found that there were seven other statistics that measured college readiness in one way or another.

There was college readiness based on the Algebra 1 regents.  On that they had 11.6%.

College readiness based on the Geometry regents, 1.6%.

Based on the Algebra 2 regents, 0%.

Based on the English regents, 41.6%.

Based on the Global History regents, 50%.

Their Math SAT average, 446

Percent getting a 65 or more on either Algebra 2, Physics, or Chemistry, 15.3%

I challenged Davis to a little Twitter debate and he said that there was no inconsistency between the regents college ready numbers and the ‘math’ college ready ones.  They were based on different students, he said.  One was the graduating cohort and one was the younger students taking these tests.  I said that it did not add up.  If the demographics of the school is about the same for different classes and the teachers are the same, these numbers should correlate somewhat.

And, in general, they do.  I made one of my famous scatter plots, putting the ‘Math College Ready’ on the horizontal and the ‘Geometry College Ready’ on the vertical.  There was a general correlation with one notable outlier, a lonely red dot at the bottom right of the graph with its 82.7% college ready math yet 1.6% college ready Geometry.

ptech2

So for sure something is off about their 82.7% number.  The most plausible explanation is that even though they can’t get hardly anyone to pass the 10th grade and 11th grade math regents, perhaps they have their students keep taking the Algebra 1 regents over and over every year until they achieve an 80 on it (which, again, is really just a 59% before the curve, but that’s another story).  I can’t be sure.

When he saw that we weren’t making much progress on the Twitter debate, Davis wisely took a break from it.  Joel Klein, Mr. Data Driven until the data doesn’t support his agenda, tweeted one last barb, which he later deleted about how Davis will keep fighting for the kids while I will keep trying to destroy all that is good.   I tweeted back that something that is truly good will withstand the scrutiny of critics, and that was it for this round.

P-TECH is expanding across the state and the world, actually.  There are 16 more opening in New York, I understand, and 40 across the country.  Australia is looking at them and I just saw something about two P-TECHs opening in Morocco …

Other posts I’ve written about P-TECH:

P-Blecch

Is P-TECH a Miracle School or a Failing School?

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Success Academy Scrubs Their Public Video Page: Updated

There’s a famous saying, I think it originated with Watergate, “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover up.”

My last two blog posts have been based on videos I found on Success Academy’s public video site on Vimeo.  This is the collection of videos that they promised in The Wall Street Journal back in May after a few very public scandals.

Now Success Academy is very private about what happens in their schools so you’d figure that all their videos contain things that they are proud of.  Surely they spent considerable money producing these videos and there were many people involved in what sorts of things would be permitted to be in these videos.

There were 485 videos on the page when I first came across it a few days ago.  Randomly clicking on a few of them I found four videos among the nearly 500 that I analyzed, three in the first post and one in the second post.  I noticed in a comment today on the most recent post that the video I wrote about was taken down from the site.  Then I looked at the first post and found that two of those three videos were also removed from their site.  I went back to their site to find that all that remains of the 485 videos that were up just 24 hours ago is now down to just 56 videos.

Now you can go back and read my posts and you will see that I encourage readers to watch the videos and make their own judgements before reading my opinions on them.  Surely by posting these videos they should expect that someone might watch them and critique them, you’d figure.  But I think it is pretty sure that it isn’t a coincidence that a few days after I posted the links to these videos not only are three out of four of them removed, but over 90% of their videos are removed.

Now these videos were posted originally, presumably, to help the public schools learn what they can do to be as high performing as Success Academies.  These videos were a public service.  If this is true, it seems very harsh, cruel even, to take them down just because some blogger links to four of them and criticizes them.

If they’re going to do this, why leave up 56 videos?  The truth is that I did not sift through the 485 videos looking for incriminating stuff.  Basically, I can pick pretty much any video they have and the issues I had with the other videos I wrote about are all clearly there.

For example (and let’s see if this video gets taken down now), here’s one that remains.  In it the teacher is demonstrating a classroom management technique called ‘behavior narration.’  It’s a form of positive reinforcement where you praise kids for following instructions.  In theory it encourages kids who get praise to want to get more praise and it also encourages kids who are not following instructions to follow them so they can get that praise.  I’m all for positive reinforcement but, as you will see in this video, when taken to its logical extreme it becomes an annoyance.

In this short video, kids are trying to read silently.  While they do, the teacher praises the kids for things like reading with straight backs.  Many of the narrations are about things that the teacher cannot possibly know are true like “Adrian is thinking about the setting of the book, how it is impacting the rest of his story” and “Max is thinking about the problem his character is encountering as he’s reading.”

 

One thing about this video is that the teacher seems to have some warmth while in the videos that were deleted, the teachers were somewhat hostile.  The other videos had teachers doing some very bad things, for example, making kids raise their hands to reveal to the entire class that they got a poor score on an assignment.  Another deleted video had an assistant teacher putting a sticker on a child’s face as the assistant teacher circulated around the room.

The videos seem to show that Success Academy is a place where students live in fear of their over-controlling teachers.  It does not look like a place where kids get the opportunity to be kids.  I do think there there is a subset of kids who can do well in this environment, but most, I think, can’t.

I think that the taking down of 430 out of 485 videos is an extreme — even paranoid — response to the analysis of one blogger about four of their videos.  I hope they put the videos back up soon but I’m assuming they won’t.

Update:  On Thursday September 6th the videos, for a brief while, temporarily reappeared, all of them, but a few hours later every video became password protected.  So we went from 485 to 56 to 485 and then to 0 all in 24 hours.

Posted in Uncategorized | 23 Comments

Circle Time At Success Academy

Success Academy is a network of charter schools in New York City that is quite controversial.  It is undeniable that their test scores are incredibly high.  Yet, we know very little about what happens inside these schools.  They don’t seem to be all that different from other ‘no excuses’ charters yet their test scores are so much higher than that of other charters too.

After some bad press last year in The New York Times — there was a ‘got-to-go’ list at one school and a video of a teacher ripping up a first grader’s math work — Success said they were going to share some of their best practices.  They’ve followed through on that promise posting about 500 videos on a public site.  I’ve watched about 10 of these videos and I’ve written about a few already.

I’m assuming that they expect people to watch these videos and that since they publicly posted them, they are not ashamed of anything that are in the videos.  But when I watch these videos I find most of them very disturbing.

In this six minute video we see a teacher doing ‘circle time’ reading the classic children’s book ‘Caps For Sale.’  The kids in the class are around 5 or 6 years old, I think it is a kindergarten class.  If you have time, I think you should first watch the video yourself and form your own conclusions.

Update 9/5/16:  Success Academy has deleted the video.  Where there were once nearly 500 videos on their public Vimeo page, there are now about 50.

 

She reminds them how to sit to make this “the most enjoyable story yet” which includes having a really straight back and hands clasped together while tracking the speaker.

There is a lot of “behavior narration” going on, where the teacher constantly points out to the class students who are following directions well.  (“Yolanni’s tracking up here.” “Davin brought it right back”)  I find it very annoying and I feel like if I were a child it would detract from the story.

The teacher is in complete control.  She allows the kids to make some gestures from time to time, but then quickly gets them to return their hands to their laps.  I’m kind of scared of this teacher, whoever she is.

A bizarre thing seems to happen at the 4:55 mark.  The assistant teacher comes over to one of the girls in the class, a girl who has not been engaged so much in the reading and, I’ve watched this a bunch of times so tell me if I’m seeing things, seems to put a sticker or something onto the child’s face.  The child does not resist in any way, it is just something that happens, I guess, at this school.  I don’t know what the sticker signifies.  I didn’t see that child get any of the many ‘corrections’ that some students have received during the story so I’m not sure what that was all about.

capspic.png

I’m a high school teacher and can’t claim to be an expert in reading to children.  (I did co-write a children’s book, ‘The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes’ if that gets me any credibility on this topic)  Still, watching this video causes me some anxiety.  The overly controlled environment the teacher with her constant corrections and narration.  I’m just so thankful that my own children don’t go to this school.  If this is the price to pay for incredibly high test scores, I feel like it is too steep.

I’m interested to hear from people who are experts at teaching small children if my instincts in watching this are off at all, let me know in the comments.

Posted in Uncategorized | 29 Comments

Success Academy Reveals Some Of Their Secret Methods

In February 2016, The New York Times revealed that a celebrated teacher at Success Academy utilized a teaching technique known as ‘rip and redo’ on an unsuspecting 1st grader.  The chain insisted that this was an anomaly as was the now infamous ‘got to go’ list, also revealed by The New York Times a few months earlier.

One purpose of charters, at least originally, was for them to experiment with things and share their best practices with the public schools.  And of course there are a lot of other things, good and bad, that are happening at Success Academy, but it is pretty amazing that the public doesn’t get a chance to see what they are doing to achieve such unbelievable test scores.  It’s as if one hospital seems to have found the cure to Cancer and scientists are not permitted to verify their claims or learn how the treatment works.

So a few months later Success started posting videos on a public site where they are actually sharing what they consider to be their best practices.  There are about 500 videos so far, probably amounting to twenty hours of footage (most videos are just a  minute or two).

 

Maybe people don’t know this about me considering that I’m a critic of ‘No Excuses’ charter schools, but as a teacher I am someone who likes my class to be pretty orderly.  I’ve written two guidebooks for new teachers ‘Reluctant Disciplinarian’ and ‘Beyond Survival’ and I do think, especially for new teachers, it is better to be too strict if the only other option is to have no control over your classes.  As I’ve aged, I’ve mellowed and gotten more confidence in myself as a teacher so I no longer ‘need’ to have total control at all times, which has definitely made me a happier teacher.

I haven’t watched many of these videos so don’t think that I’ve somehow cherry picked three that prove whatever point I’m trying to make, but I have selected three to analyze a bit.  Some people may see these videos and like what they see.  Surely Success Academy, as private as they are, must think that these are videos to be proud of otherwise they would not go through the effort of posting them.

This first video is just 52 seconds long.  The teacher is explaining how each student will get a jar of tiles and the students have to arrange the tiles into a rectangle and then figure out a short cut to count the tiles (presumably by multiplying the length and width of the rectangle they form)

As this is a ‘hands on’ activity, I was a bit surprised that students were instructed to work in ‘zero noise’ and ‘making sure that none of your tiles falls to the floor.’  I do think that a teacher should make it clear that when using manipulatives like this, they are not toys and students should take them seriously.  But what is the big deal if a tile falls on the floor once in a while?  I would not be thrilled if my child were in this overly controlled classroom.

This next video is one that I found very disturbing.  The teacher is coaching the student before the a test about how he should be ‘precise.’  She repeats this a bunch of times and watching the student, and I know that he could be nervous about being on camera, but I still find this interaction very awkward.  Something I’ve noticed from the few videos I’ve seen is that the teachers, at least the ones featured on the videos, are very robotic and cold.  I think that in a school there should be a mix of different ‘types’ of teacher as some kids may relate to one type better than another, and also it’s good to get to experience dealing with different personality types.  I haven’t looked at many videos, but of the ones I saw, all the teachers seemed to be twenty-something white women with type-A personalities (not to stereotype, or anything).  If people who read this blog watch some other videos and notice different personality types, leave comments after this post.

This last video is long, but I was most struck by the first two minutes where the teacher (A TFA teacher, actually) is giving a pep talk before the activity, reading some non-fiction passages and answering 7 questions.  In the first two minutes the word “score” is said ten times.  At 4:43 a student mentions the state tests as a reason for learning about reading.  At 5:00 a second student chimes in and mentions the state tests.  These students have been trained well indeed!

I notice that any time a teacher poses a question to the class, the students seem to have to respond by first rephrasing the question.  So the teacher asks “Why is it important to have a deep understanding of the passage before answering the question?” and the student answers by first saying “It is important to have a deep understanding of the passage before answering the question because …”  It seems very ‘conformist’ to me.

The students do get opportunity to talk and answer questions and express ideas but this lesson is extremely ‘teacher-driven.’  Also, these are 6th graders doing a reading passage with 7 questions after they’ve already been through the Success Academy program for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade test prep so this lesson seems a bit unnecessary to me.

At 34:10 students are asked to raise their hand if they got a 4, 3, 2, or 1, which I don’t think is right to publicly shame kids who did poorly on an assignment.

As I’ve mentioned, I was one of the original uptight controlling teachers in my younger days.  I still don’t like watching a class that is in chaos even if its some kind of controlled chaos where the students are actually learning even if it doesn’t seem like it.

I do appreciate that the teachers are certainly working hard at this test prep lesson.  I’m just hoping that when my kids are in 6th grade they don’t have to endure a lesson like this.  People who read this blog may disagree with me, and that’s fine too.

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Duncan’s Convenient Edit

A few days ago, Campbell Brown’s website, the74, published their first book called ‘The Founders.’  It is a book about the top charter schools in the country and the stories behind them and their founders.  The foreward to the book was written by former Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.

In The Atlantic they ran an excerpt from this foreward with the title “The Myth of the ‘Miracle School'”.  The term ‘miracle school’ was popularized by Diane Ravitch in her May 31st 2011 New York Times Op-Ed ‘Waiting For A School Miracle.’  A ‘miracle school’ is one that is outperforming the nearby neighboring school with the ‘same kids’ and the same resources.  The main difference between the two schools as far as ‘inputs’ is that the teachers at the miracle school care more, have higher expectations, and work harder.  The evidence of the student outcomes are usually higher test scores than the neighborhood school or 100% of the senior class getting admitted to college.

My first encounter with a miracle school was when I heard Arne Duncan make the keynote speech at the Teach For America 20 year alumni summit.  He spoke about how when he was CEO of Chicago schools he shut down a big ‘failing’ high school and replaced it with three smaller schools on the same campus.  One of those schools, Urban Prep, had just graduated their first class.  In the speech he implied that the school got 100% of their students to graduate and get into college.  When I researched it I learned that only about 65% of the students who had started there in 9th grade had graduated and that their standardized test scores were some of the lowest in the state.

I read the article in The Atlantic and Duncan said this about ‘miracle schools.’:

I have yet to visit a great school where the school leaders and teachers were content to rest on their laurels. I have never heard a charter-school leader describe his or her school as a “miracle school” or claim to have found the silver bullet for ending educational inequity. The truth is that great charter schools are restless institutions, committed to continuous improvement. They are demanding yet caring institutions. And they are filled with a sense of urgency about the challenges that remain in boosting achievement and preparing students to succeed in life.

When I compared the excerpt from The Atlantic with the full foreward in ‘The Founders’, I found a very revealing and convenient edit.

Near the end of the excerpt in The Atlantic, there are these two paragraphs:

Sadly, much of the current debate in Washington, in education schools, and in the blogosphere about high-performing charter schools is driven by ideology, not by facts on the ground. Far too often, the chief beneficiaries of high-performing charter schools—low-income families and children—are forgotten amid controversies over funding and the hiring of nonunion teachers in charter schools. Too often, the parents and children who are desperately seeking better schools are an afterthought.

Despite the bloodless, abstract quality of much of today’s debates on charters, the ideologically driven controversies won’t end anytime soon. Advocates and activists will continue to care about whether a high-performing school is identified as a charter school or a traditional neighborhood school. But it is worth remembering that children do not care about this distinction. Neither do I.

But in the full foreward there are two additional paragraphs in-between these two paragraphs:

Sadly, much of the current debate in Washington, D.C., in education schools, and in the blogosphere about high-performing charter schools is driven by ideology, not by facts on the ground. Far too often, the chief beneficiaries of high-performing charter schools — low-income families and children — are forgotten amid controversies over funding and the hiring of nonunion teachers in charter schools. Too often, the parents and children who are desperately seeking better schools are an afterthought.

When I was at CPS, we replaced one failing school in the violent, high-poverty Englewood neighborhood with three schools, one of which was Urban Prep Charter Academy, an all-male, all-black school. At Urban Prep’s predecessor, Englewood High, a senior was shot to death at a bus stop in front of the school a few years before we closed the school. Just 4 percent of seniors read at grade level — i.e., in every class of 25 students, one student on average could read at grade level. And this educational malpractice had been going on for a long time. Don Stewart, the former president of Spelman College and head of the Chicago Community Trust, told me that his mother wouldn’t let him attend Englewood High 50 years earlier because it was known as a terrible school even then.

In 2010, four years after Urban Prep Charter Academy opened, it graduated its first class — with all 107 seniors headed off to four-year colleges and universities. Urban Prep Academies recently announced that 100 percent of the 252 seniors in the class of 2016 were admitted to a four-year university or college, too — the seventh year in a row in which 100 percent of Urban Prep seniors were admitted to a four-year college or university.

Despite the bloodless, abstract quality of much of today’s debates on charters, the ideologically driven controversies won’t end anytime soon. Advocates and activists will continue to care about whether a high-performing school is identified as a charter school or a traditional neighborhood school. But it is worth remembering that children do not care about this distinction. Neither do I.

I find it interesting that those two paragraphs about Urban Prep were omitted in the excerpt.  As the title of the excerpt is “The Myth of the ‘Miracle School'” it would not be wise for Duncan to include a perfect example of why the whole idea of exposing schools as over-hyped has become a big part of the fight to save public schools, public school students, and public school teachers.

If Duncan had put Urban Prep into The Atlantic which will be much more widely read than his foreward in ‘The Founders’ people would be more likely to look into the story about Urban Prep and their awful test scores and attrition despite their record of 100% of their graduating seniors being admitted to college.  (Urban Prep promised to eventually reveal how those original 107 students in the class of 2010 fared in college, but we are still waiting for this information.)

I’m also amazed that Duncan, in the foreward, is still using the same one example of a ‘miracle school’ from so many years back.  It is important to him not just to have an example of a miracle school but to have one that he had some hand in creating.

Before writing ‘The Founders,’ Whitmire wrote biography about Michelle Rhee and a book about the Rocketship charters so we can expect the book to have a predictable point of view.  I’ve just read Duncan’s foreward so far and did some searching through the text.  The book is about the highest performing charters in the country so it’s a bit strange that only about three pages of the book are dedicated to Success Academy.  If I were a ‘reformer’ I would have no interest in the KIPPs, YESs, Nobles, Green Dots,  and all the others with their test scores, at best, marginally better than the state averages.  Aside from Success Academy, all the other charters mainly support the thesis that reforms based mainly on making it easier to fire teachers won’t cause test scores to increase by very much.

On page 94 of the book he takes a small dig at Success Academy:  “And comparing academic results from her schools with those from neighborhood schools, when her schools enjoy important differences such as not “backfilling” classes after fourth grade, is unfair.”  Of course the academic results from her schools are not just compared to the neighborhood schools, but with the other charter schools that the book is mainly about so it is important for him to mention about the ‘important differences’ that Success works with while likely not mentioning so much the differences that the charters he features work with.  I haven’t read much of the book yet, but I plan to and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments