Educate All Students, Support Public Education

February 25, 2010

Scott Walker Joins the Job Creation Game

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 5:23 pm

Walker’s job creation claims disputedBy Lee Bergquist of the Journal Sentinel

Republican Scott Walker’s statement that if elected governor he would create 10,000 businesses and 250,000 jobs over four years was attacked on Wednesday by state Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate, who said Walker “made the numbers up out of thin air.”

The dustup underscores the importance of jobs and the economy in the race for governor and how candidates think they can help pull Wisconsin out of the recession.

Walker told the state’s largest business group on Tuesday that lowering taxes, reducing regulations and other initiatives would stimulate a quarter-million jobs by 2015.

That would total nearly all of Wisconsin’s civilian unemployed labor force, state figures show.


Serious Questions Raised About Harlem Village Academy Charter School: Is This The Model For Urban Public School Reform?

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 5:17 pm

The Harlem Village Academy (HVA)  is one of the New York schools that is being  advertised as a model for urban schools. Recently Bob Herbert, in the New York Times, raved about HVA. Following is a blog posting by Steve Koss that raises some important questions.

In his latest NY Times column, Bob Herbert has shown that he belongs to the Nick Kristof club of “journalists” who helicopter into an issue, traipse around for a few hours, get treated like royalty and receive a king’s tour, hear a one-sided pitch, watch a show being put on for their benefit, and then go write a story as if they actually know something about the broader topic.

Herbert decided to dabble for a few hours in NYC public school education, and the Potemkin village story he presents is about the marvels of Harlem Village Academy (HVA) charter school on West 144th Street. Herbert makes much of one his one selected statistic: “In 2008, when the math and science test scores come in, Ms. Kenny’s eighth graders had achieved 100 percent proficiency.” That’s commendable, of course, but here are a few figures he overlooked or failed to mention:

— In 2006-07, the first year on which DOE reports data for HVA, the school had a Grade 5 class of 66 students. HVA has no students in Grades K-4, so Grade 5 appears to be the school’s primary intake class. The next year, that same cohort as Grade 6 students numbered 45. A 32% loss of students in a single year for such a stellar school, even in the middle school crossover year, is worth explaining.

— In 2006-07, HVA had a Grade 7 class of 42 students, but the next year’s Grade 8 cohort numbered just 31, another 26% loss of students that raises an eyebrow or two.

— One-third of the school’s classes in 2008 were “taught by teachers without appropriate certification” according to the DOE’s own data, and 42% of the teachers were reported either without certification (18%) or teaching outside their area of certification (24%). HVA did not report its teacher turnover rates for the DOE’s 2007-08 report, nor does it appear to have ever disclosed those figures for the DOE’s public reporting.

— In 2006-07, HVA had zero students out of 200 classified at Limited English Proficient (LEP); in 2007-08, that number was still only three out of 233. By comparison, PS/IS 210, located just eight blocks away on West 152nd Street, had 173 LEP students out of a student population of 360 in 2007-08, or 48%.

— In 2006-07, 53% of the HVA student body qualified for free lunch, rising to 61% in 2007-08. By comparison, 91% of the student population at nearby PS/IS 210 qualified for free lunch in 2006-07 (no data reported for 2007-08).

— HVA reported an average class size of 31 for 2007-08. By comparison, PS/IS 210 reported a Grade 1-6 (common branch) average class size of 40 for the last three consecutive years.

— HVA reported 75 student suspensions in 2005-06 and 87 suspensions for 2006-07. The student body in those two years totaled 200 and 233, respectively. Nearby PS/IS 210 reported just 10 suspensions in each of those two years for student populations of 192 and 257, respectively. Both schools reported 94% attendance rates for 2006-07, the only year reported by HVA.

— For 2007-08, HVA reported a Grade 8 cohort of 31 students. Thirty took the Grade 8 Math exam, but only 25 took the Grade 8 Science exam in which 96% were rated Proficient. What happened to the other six students, almost 20% of the class? If they were all too weak academically to have reached Proficient, the school’s percentage would have dropped to 77% — still good, but not as chest-thumping as 96%. Curiously, 41 of HVA’s 43 Grade 8 student the previous year took the Science exam for 2006-07, and their proficiency percentage came in just there, at 76%.

— A recent executive search letter seeking teachers on HVA’s behalf included the following statement: The organization [Harlem Village Academies] recently completed a $67 million capital campaign to build a new high school in the heart of Harlem and has a robust pipeline of donors. Harlem Village Academies recently held its first ever gala, hosted by Hugh Jackman, with performances by John Legend, Patti LaBelle, and Joss Stone. The event, attended by Mayor Bloomber and Governor Patterson, generated net revenues of nearly $2 million. I can’t resist adding here that the DOE is still aggressively pursuing its edict that NYC public school students are forbidden from selling homemade brownies, cupcakes, or cookies to raise $50 or $100 for their clubs and activities; if they could just get Hugh Jackman and Patti LaBelle!

Other recent news items from HVA’s own website cite the involvement of Jack Welch (GE), Dick Parsons (Citigroup), Brian Williams (NBC), and Tiki Barber. Again, compare all this to the (steadily shrinking) resources DOE provides to PS/IS 210 and its much needier student population nearby. Note as well that Mayor Bloomberg is repeatedly quoted in the school’s literature and on its website as describing HVA as “the poster child for this country.” Is this really the Mayor’s vision for NYC public schools: dependent on celebrities and the feel-good charitable funding fad of the moment among NYC’s corporatocracy and its nouveau riche hedge fund managers?

— Principal Deborah Kenny, as chief executive of Harlem Village Network (which includes one other school in East Harlem, the Leadership Village Academy Charter School), commanded a neat little compensation package totaling slightly under $420,000 last year. She is not the acting principal of any of her network’s three schools, yet her compensation, spread over the 400-odd students in her network, adds a $1,000 per student overhead burden. If the entire NYC public school system operated in the same manner for its one million students, the combined compensation for all the comparable “network chief executives” would add one billion dollars to the city’s education budget!

I should state here that I am not categorically opposed to charter schools in principle, any more than I have ever been opposed to parochial schools (from which, in Indianapolis, I am a partial product). What I object to is the unthinking, unquestioning acceptance by people like Mr. Herbert, who are supposed to know better, that privatizing public education based on hidden investors (with potentially their own agendas), paying outsized salaries to members of the club, dumping at will any kids who are difficult to teach or control, ignoring kids with English language or special education needs, and then blindly comparing these cream-skimmed apples to a wholly different and far more inclusive set of underfunded oranges somehow represents “the answer” for urban education in America. Mr. Herbert owes us much better than the misleading storyline he has provided in this instance, whatever his personal feelings and connections are.

Schools like Harlem Village Academy may indeed work well for the population they create for themselves after dumping the kids they don’t want back into the “traditional” public school system, and they deserve to be credited for what they achieve as a result since their students appear to be benefiting. But that’s not public education, that’s just a tuition-free private school operating on public money in public space, supplemented by lots and lots of private money and making a few more, mostly white people like Ms. Kenny and Ms. Moskowitz shamefully well-paid.

Posted by Steve Koss

Arne Duncan Applauds the Rhode Island School Firing of Whole Staff

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 5:10 pm

February 24, 2010

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I.—The U.S. Secretary of Education is applauding the vote to fire all the teachers at the high school in Central Falls because it is one of the worst performing schools in the state.

“This is hard work and these are tough decisions, but students only have one chance for an education,” Duncan said in Wednesday’s edition of The Providence Journal, “and when schools continue to struggle we have a collective obligation to take action.”

The Central Falls School Committee on Tuesday evening voted 5-2 to fire every educator at the school, from teachers to guidance counselors to the principal, at the end of the school year. The vote came the same day that State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist approved the firing plan, which was recommended by Superintendent Frances Gallo, and gave the district 120 days to come up with a detailed plan.

Central Falls Teachers Union President Jane Sessums says she is reviewing several legal options.

Central Falls High School, the only school in this tiny and impoverished city of one square mile just north of Providence, is persistently one of the worst-performing schools in the state. Only about half its students graduate, and only 7 percent of its 11th graders were proficient in math in 2009.

The plan was developed because of a federal effort to makeover failing schools. Those schools can select one of four options to fix themselves, which include requiring a longer school day, turning management over to a charter school, firing the entire teaching staff and rehiring no more than half, or closing the school.

In Rhode Island, Gist identified the state’s six worst performing schools and asked the superintendents to develop plans to fix them. The other five schools are in Providence, and their plans are due to Gist by March 17.

Gallo and the teachers had been negotiating for a longer school day and other provisions, but talks broke down over money. She said earlier this month that she had no choice but to fire all the teachers, and rehire no more than half.

Hundreds of people attended a rally at a city park before the school committee meeting, many of them union members.

“This is immoral, illegal, unjust, irresponsible, disgraceful and disrespectful,” George Nee, president of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, told the crowd.

Mark Bostic, a representative from the American Federation of Teachers, said it would stand behind the teachers “as long as it takes to get justice.”

L.A. teachers gain control of 22 campuses in reform effort

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 5:05 pm

The school board turns over most of the 30 campuses targeted for reform to instructors.

By Howard Blume

February 24, 2010

In an unlikely victory, groups of teachers, rather than outside operators, will run the vast majority of 30 campuses under a controversial school reform effort, the Los Angeles Board of Education decided Tuesday.

It was an ironic twist to a strategy that was designed to allow outsiders to manage new or troubled campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District. When the board approved the concept in August, it was a stunning acknowledgment that the nation’s second-largest school system needed help to improve its schools.

But the result was far different. Acting mostly on recommendations from Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, the board agreed Tuesday to turn over 22 of the schools to teacher-led efforts. Board members also supported Cortines’ proposal to have different groups share some campuses. Teachers, for example, were given a role at two other schools along with outside groups.

The teachers competed against Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s nonprofit school organization and charter schools, independently run public campuses that are mostly nonunion.

In the end, charter schools were given the chance to run four schools and the mayor’s Partnership for Los Angeles Schools was given three.

The board’s decision directly affects close to 40,000 students — a number that by itself would represent one of the state’s largest school systems. This reform has been characterized as a possible national model as well as a signal of notable progress within L.A. Unified, which is competing for federal grants by claiming leadership status in reform efforts.

More than 250 existing schools initially fell under the plan’s sweep, but Cortines narrowed the list to 12 low-performing campuses along with 18 new ones.

Charters had lobbied hard for a chance to run the schools, and brought out hundreds Tuesday for a street demonstration that competed with a later teachers union rally outside the district’s downtown headquarters. Inside, the board room was packed with supporters of various constituencies and nearly 50 people appealed to the board before votes were taken.

Board member Yolie Flores, who brought the proposal to her colleagues last summer, had grown dissatisfied with student achievement at the new schools opened as part of the district’s massive school construction program. She also was sensitive to the challenge charter schools face in finding space to operate.

On Tuesday, she said she was “extremely disappointed” when board members altered some of the superintendent’s recommendations. Board President Monica Garcia, for example, successfully proposed removing two high-profile charter groups from the five small schools that will occupy the Torres high school complex east of downtown.

The board’s decisions, Flores said, “should be based on quality and merit. If we do not do that, I believe we compromise the integrity of this process.”

In a matter of weeks, groups of teachers created proposals during their off-time, helped by the district and their union, United Teachers Los Angeles.

Cortines told the board that he was impressed by the efforts.

“So many of our school communities have stepped up to the plate to improve the conditions at their schools,” he said. “Schools that have been struggling for years now have a sense of urgency and commitment to improving their schools.”

Cortines also answered critics who believed that he favored too few outside groups. “There are those who feel my recommendations are not bold enough,” Cortines said. “They are looking for something that might be sexy. Let me tell you, I am not interested in fads. I am interested in transforming the lives of our students.”

A few charter schools had vied for the existing schools, and charters got none of those.

The three charters that got knocked out are among the most politically potent and also regarded as movement leaders: Green Dot Public Schools, the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools and ICEF Public Schools.

“We find this to be an appalling decision,” said Jed Wallace, chief executive of the California Charters Schools Assn. “Merit was not at the heart of the matter today. The three organizations taken out of the process today . . . are understood at the national level to be the gold standard as far as charter operators go.”

The city’s union leadership, with its powerful influence over elections, had coalesced with district employee unions to argue against more charters.
“We are disappointed that some of our schools were given to outside operators,” said teachers union official Joel Jordan. Still, “UTLA is heartened that the school board chose to recognize the excellence of the teacher-parent plans.”

The mayor, who insiders said also lobbied board members, got three of the four schools he wanted to expand the 12 controlled by his education group: one new elementary, Griffith Joyner Elementary in Watts and Carver Middle School in South Park. He quietly lobbied for Griffith Joyner and the board complied by overriding Cortines on that choice. The mayor did not get control of Jefferson High, which he had also sought.

Earlier this month, the district allowed parents, students, employees and community members to vote separately for the reform plans they favored. The results were not binding on district officials.

The teachers union mounted a grass-roots campaign and successfully dominated the elections, which occasionally descended into chaos.

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

February 22, 2010

Questions About Charters and Diversity

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 6:21 pm
Magnet schools have a strong record of increasing racial or economic diversity and deserve more federal funding and support than they are receiving.

“In Washington, all the attention has gone to charters,” said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank based in Washington. “There is something of a disconnect between what’s happening locally and what’s happening nationally. My sense is that magnet schools continue to be quite popular with parents.”


President Obama Outlines New Objectives For NCLB (ESEA)

Filed under: NCLB — millerlf @ 6:13 pm


President Obama Calls for New Steps to Prepare America’s Children for Success in College and Careers

Obama Administration Applauds Governors for Bipartisan Work to Develop Higher Standards in Education


WKCE Test: 3 Years From Replacement

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 6:05 pm

The WKCE, Wisconsin’s high-stake test that determines school and district status under No Child Left Behind has been determined to be invalid by many and inadequate by most. It will continue to be used for 3 more years to the detriment of MPS and many other districts.

2/22/010 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

New annual statewide school testing system on hold

Nearly six months after the state announced it was scrapping its annual test for public school students, efforts to replace it with a new assessment are on hold and state officials now estimate it will take at least three years to make the switch.

The reason for the delay is tied to what is happening in the national education scene.

Wisconsin is among the 48 states that have signed onto the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which expects to complete work on grade-by-grade expectations for students in English and math by early spring. Once that is done, the anticipation is that the state will adopt the new standards, using them to help craft the new statewide test.

Wisconsin officials also are planning to compete for part of $350 million that the U.S. Education Department plans to award in the fall to state consortiums for test development.


February 21, 2010

Public Policy Forum Report on Voucher Program

Filed under: Charter Schools,Uncategorized — millerlf @ 5:29 pm

The Public Policy Forum report on the voucher program can be seen in full at:

February 20, 2010

MPS Response to Tony Evers on Withholding $175 Million of Title 1 Funds

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 8:58 pm

Dear Dr. Evers:

In light of your recent public comments regarding the efforts of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and our progress on the District Identified for Improvement (DIFI) Corrective Action Requirements (DIFI-CAR), I am compelled to write to you to specifically address the ongoing and intensive work of MPS.  As you may or may not be aware, Dr. Scott Jones and Ms. Jacqueline Patterson presented a draft of completed MPS Corrective Action Requirements Benchmarks to MPS on February 10, 2010.  Most of the benchmarks on that table were labeled “Benchmark approved”, however, other items were left blank leaving the perception that MPS has not met or is not working on those particular benchmarks.  This is simply not true. Please review the following clarifications and requests for each of the benchmarks through February 1, 2010, that have been left blank.


February 17, 2010

An Excellent Op-ed on Curriculum and Assessment

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 9:42 pm

February 2, 2010


Playing to Learn


New Marlborough, Mass.

THE Obama administration is planning some big changes to how we measure the success or failure of schools and how we apportion federal money based on those assessments. It’s great that the administration is trying to undertake reforms, but if we want to make sure all children learn, we will need to overhaul the curriculum itself. Our current educational approach — and the testing that is driving it — is completely at odds with what scientists understand about how children develop during the elementary school years and has led to a curriculum that is strangling children and teachers alike.

In order to design a curriculum that teaches what truly matters, educators should remember a basic precept of modern developmental science: developmental precursors don’t always resemble the skill to which they are leading. For example, saying the alphabet does not particularly help children learn to read. But having extended and complex conversations during toddlerhood does. Simply put, what children need to do in elementary school is not to cram for high school or college, but to develop ways of thinking and behaving that will lead to valuable knowledge and skills later on.

So what should children be able to do by age 12, or the time they leave elementary school? They should be able to read a chapter book, write a story and a compelling essay; know how to add, subtract, divide and multiply numbers; detect patterns in complex phenomena; use evidence to support an opinion; be part of a group of people who are not their family; and engage in an exchange of ideas in conversation. If all elementary school students mastered these abilities, they would be prepared to learn almost anything in high school and college.


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