Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

December 20, 2012

Walker Names Jason Fields to SDC Board

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 11:15 am

By Bill Glauber of the Journal Sentinel Dec. 19, 2012

Gov. Scott Walker appointed Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee) to the Social Development Commission Thursday.

Fields, first elected to the Assembly in 2004, was defeated in the August Democratic primary by Mandela Barnes.

Fields’ appointment came less than a week after a major board shakeup of the anti-poverty agency. Some board members also criticized the governor for what they said was a disregard for the agency’s work.

The 18-member panel is composed of people appointed by the governor and other governmental and community agencies, as well as six resident representatives.

Walker went 18 months without appointing a representative.

“Representative Fields’ experience in the Legislature will be a great addition to the Commission,” Walker said in a prepared statement. “The Commission is tasked with finding solutions to the problems facing Milwaukee County and its residents. Jason’s dedication to the people of Milwaukee is exactly what the Commission needs.”

 

December 17, 2012

Conservative Joe Scarborough Breaks with the NRA

Filed under: Gun Violence — millerlf @ 9:40 am

By MACKENZIE WEINGER | 12/17/12 Politico

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough launched today’s “Morning Joe” with a ten-minute address in response to the shooting in Newtown, Conn., last Friday.

“Today as a nation we grieve and today we as a people feel helpless,” he said. “Helpless to stop these random acts of violence that seem to be getting less random by the day. You know it may be the geographic proximity of Newtown to my hometown, or the fact that my children’s ages average those of the 20 young children tragically killed on Friday, or the fact that my second son has Asperger’s, or the fact that too many other facts associated with Friday’s nightmare strike so close to home — for me, just like for you, there is no escaping the horrors visited upon on those children and teachers at Sandy Hook.”

And “every American must know from this day forward nothing can ever be the same again. We’ve said this before after Columbine, after Arizona, after Aurora, after so many other numbing hours of murder and massacre. But let this be our true landmark.”

Scarborough said “Friday changed everything and it must change everything.”

“Politicians can no longer be allowed to defend the status quo,” he said. “They must instead be forced to defend our children. Parents can no longer take no for an answer from Washington when the topic turns to protecting our children.”

The MSNBC host told viewers the gun violence in this country has been spawned by “violent popular culture, a growing mental health crisis and the proliferation of combat-styled weapons.”

“I say good luck to the gun lobbyist, good luck to the Hollywood lawyer who tries to blunt the righteous anger of millions of parents by hiding behind twisted readings of our Bill of Rights,” he said.

While noting the NRA’s approval of him during his terms in Congress and saying he long saw the debate over guns “as a powerful symbolic struggle between individual rights and government control,” Scarborough said that has been shattered.

“The symbols of that ideological struggle, they’ve been shattered by the harvest sewn from violent mind-numbing video games and gruesome Hollywood movies that dangerously desensitize those that struggle from mental health challenges,” he said. “And then add in military-styled weapons and high-capacity magazines to that equation, and tragedy can never be too far behind.”

“There’s no easy ideological way forward,” Scarborough said, adding that “I come to you this morning with a heavy heart and no easy answers.”

But, he said, “it’s time for Washington to stop trying to win endless wars overseas while losing the war at home.”

“I choose life, and I choose change,” Scarborough told viewers

Bob Peterson on the Tragedy in Newton, Connecticut

Filed under: Gun Violence — millerlf @ 9:31 am

First we mourn, then we organize

By Bob Peterson, President Milwaukee Teachers Education Association

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Educators across the nation will enter school with heavy hearts on Monday. Beneath flags at half-mast and between hugs of staff and students, teachers will navigate through difficult questions and raw fears as we remember and honor the victims of the Sandy Hook School tragedy.

First, we mourn.

We mourn for the victims, for their families, for the heroic Sandy Hook staff, and for the entire community of Newtown, Connecticut.

We also mourn for this nation and for the tens of thousands of people whose lives have been affected by this country’s epidemic of mass killings and incessant gun violence.

We also grieve.

As professional educators, we will help our students process their grief and fears. Using social media, teacher unions, school districts and individual teachers have provided resources on how to guide conversations.

Six educators (all women), twelve girls and eight boys (all 1st graders) were killed in the massacre. Our grieving will never completely end.

We also honor. And the best way to do so is to organize against senseless gun violence.

There are some commentators who say, “No, you can’t take on the gun lobby, you will never win. Talk about keeping children safe, yes. But don’t talk about gun control.”

But, as Nicholas Kristof wrote in Sunday’s New York Times, “What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won’t stand up to the N.R.A.?”

We can hope that our political leaders will, in future weeks, take “meaningful action” against gun violence. We can also hope that this country begins to address the crisis in mental health services.

But the only way to make sure our hopes come true is to organize.

It will take nothing less than a mass movement to ensure that our political leaders fulfill their responsibilities and actually do something rather than lament the power of the pro-gun lobby.

Given the events of Sandy Hook, parents and educators have a particular role to play, including the NEA and AFT leadership. Likewise, community leaders must demand a community-wide response, and religious and business leaders must call  upon their colleagues. Together, we all must demand that our elected leaders address the epidemic of gun violence and the crisis in mental health care.

In the coming days, we will mourn the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

But we must also organize to prevent future such tragedies. We have no choice.

 

December 16, 2012

Governor Scott Walker says he plans to “help” MPS by ending residency so that MPS teachers can teach in Milwaukee but send their kids to suburban schools.

Filed under: Residency — millerlf @ 8:50 am

From the 12/16 MJS article “Walker Outlines Education Priorities for Next Year”

He (Walker) said he felt strongly that residency could stand in the way of Milwaukee Public Schools recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers, many of whom leave the district because they are dissatisfied with the neighborhood school where their own children would have to attend, he said.

“If you have someone who’s a great teacher starting out at MPS – and this is not stereotyped, this is often the case – has kids, the kids get school age and they decide they’re going to move to Brown Deer, Wauwatosa or somewhere else; it’s just unfortunate that for that teacher you don’t have an option to try to keep him or her within the Milwaukee Public Schools system. It’s not that they’re saying they don’t want to be there, it’s that it’s based on not just their career but their family.”

Walker said another way to retain MPS teachers would be to give them more options for educating their own children, whether with better public schools or expanded charter and voucher schools.

James Causey Gets It Right On Residency

Filed under: Residency — millerlf @ 8:47 am

Repeal would weaken city when middle-class residents move

James Causey MJS 12/15/12

Ending Milwaukee’s residency law may not turn the city into Wisconsin’s Detroit, but it won’t help a city that is already ranked as one of the poorest and most segregated in the nation.

The middle class provides the backbone that keeps cities such as ours strong. But some Republicans don’t see that. And since they will control both houses of the Legislature come January, Milwaukee officials are convinced lawmakers will take another stab at ending the city’s residency law.

If the residency law is repealed, there is no doubt that workers will leave the city for the suburbs. And that would be a shame. There is much to recommend living in the city that you work in. When a city loses such connections with its teachers, police officers or firefighters, it’s hard to re-establish them.

If you think Milwaukee Police Department relations are strained with citizens now, imagine the detachment of officers who are no longer vested in such an intimate way with the city they serve.

The residency law forces people to be good citizens. If you are required to live in Milwaukee, then you naturally have an interest in seeing the city succeed. You are also more likely to speak out about problems because they affect you.

I know Milwaukee has its problems. Poverty is too high; too many children are underperforming in school; and the city’s hyper segregation has contributed to often terrible race relations.

But lifting the residency law makes dealing with those problems even harder. It leaves those who stay to try to figure it out.

The residency law here has been on the books since 1938. When prospective employees apply for city jobs, they know that one of the requirements is that they have to live within the city limits.

I’m not trying to dictate where people can live. Live where you want. But leave the jobs for people who want to be here. If you still want to be an officer and live in Brown Deer, then become a Brown Deer Police officer. If you want to be a teacher in Milwaukee but live in Brookfield, teach in Brookfield.

And if you believe residency requirements are unfair, consider that even in the private sector, companies often move people around or ask that some employees be close to the office, and the U.S. military routinely stations servicemen and women according to military need.

Mayor Tom Barrett believes passionately that repealing the law would have a devastating effect on property values. If the requirement is lifted, Barrett estimates that half of city employees would migrate out of the city over a 10-year period. When the idea was posed before, he said the mayor of West Allis told him that he would love it if Milwaukee officers could move to West Allis to increase his city’s property values.

The last thing any mayor wants is for the property tax base of his city to flee. That’s why Barrett is fighting so hard – and he should be. The city’s life blood is threatened.

Any Republican willing to fight with local officials over this issue only needs to look at cities that have repealed residency to see how they have fared.

Those cities have seen sharp population declines. Toledo, Ohio, repealed its law in 2009, and now 24% of city workers live outside the city; Minneapolis repealed in 1999, 70% live outside the city; Baltimore repealed in 1995, 60% live outside the city; and Detroit repealed in 1999, 45% live outside the city.

Gov. Scott Walker said he has supported changing the residency rules for teachers in the past because he said it would be a way to help MPS hang on to good teachers and recruit from outside of Milwaukee.

Last week, he said if a really strong MPS teacher works in the district for a few years and wants to start a family in the suburbs, then she should not lose her teaching job because of it.

Third-generation Detroit pawnbroker Les Gold, of the TV reality show “Hardcore Pawn” said many factors contributed to Detroit’s decline but he said changing the residency law didn’t help.

Gold, 62, said the riots in the 1960s and the decline in the auto and manufacturing industries crippled his city and caused half the population to leave.

While Gold didn’t know much about Milwaukee, he said the one thing that keeps the middle class from moving is a strong school system.

“If your school system is strong, people with kids will stay. If it isn’t, then they will leave,” Gold said.

Fixing the problems in Milwaukee will not be easy but it will be even harder if a portion of the middle class leaves. The residency law is that important to our future. And it’s not asking that much of city workers. Keep it.

James E. C

December 13, 2012

City Officials Limit Public Comment on Charter Schools

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 7:40 am

So what are they trying to hide?

By Lisa Kaiser Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 ExpressMilwaukee.com

In the accelerating privatization of public schools, taxpayer-funded charter schools seem to have a better reputation than voucher schools because they are linked to a public entity—typically the city, a school board or an institution of higher learning—and they’re accountable to the public.

But an examination of the oversight of the handful of schools chartered by the city of Milwaukee shows that public meetings allow for no public comment; major decisions are made by a committee that doesn’t have its own website or report its meetings or activities on the city website; and a small network of charter school supporters review and approve schools run by their own colleagues, decisions that are loaded with potential conflicts of interest.

As a result of pressure from the watchdog group Women Committed to an Informed Community and questions from the Shepherd, City of Milwaukee Clerk Jim Owczarski said the city’s website will begin providing information about the meetings of the Charter School Review Committee (CSRC), an appointed board that approves and monitors the city’s nine charter schools—information that hasn’t been easily available to the public since the committee’s inception 20 years ago.

 

Hines Blocks Comments from Charter School Opponents

Prior to Owczarski’s announcement, the public’s ability to access information about and comment on the city’s charter schools was severely limited.

For example, Common Council President Willie Hines, who chairs the Steering and Rules Committee, called security on attendees of its June 21 meeting who had asked to speak on pending charter school applications.

Hines’ committee, which meets irregularly, vets the decisions made by CSRC, which approves or denies charter school applications, sets performance goals and recommends charter renewals.

The CSRC is currently chaired by Jeanette Mitchell of Cardinal Stritch University. For years, however, the committee had been chaired by Marquette University’s Howard Fuller. Fuller’s Marquette-based Institute for the Transformation of Learning set up the CSRC and still provides support for it.

The women who attended the June 21 meeting wanted to respond to the presentation of the board members and sponsors of Quest-Milwaukee—Fuller, Zoological Society of Milwaukee President Robert Davis and Edgar Russell—as well as Mitchell.

Hines wouldn’t let them.

“This is a public hearing for the applicants,” Hines told the attendees who wanted to speak. “This is not a public hearing for those of you in the audience.”

Essentially, Hines blocked public input on a program that receives significant taxpayer funds. According to video posted on the city’s website, Hines then argued with the women and had the committee clerk call security to remove them.

The committee voted 5-2 to approve a charter for Fuller’s Quest-Milwaukee school. The full Common Council affirmed that decision on an 11-2 vote.

This isn’t the first time that Hines has barred public testimony from a public meeting on charter schools.

On Nov. 15, Hines didn’t allow the public to speak at a Steering and Rules Committee hearing on the annual performance review of the city’s charter schools, yet charter supporters were able to speak freely with the members of Hines’s committee. Nor did Hines mention that one of the charter schools under review—the Darryl Lynn Hines Academy—is run by his brother.

In 2011, Hines stood in the way of public testimony on the pending charter school application of California-based Rocketship Education. When Rocketship’s application came up for approval by the full Common Council last November, Ald. Nik Kovac had attempted to send it back to Hines’s committee for another hearing. Hines objected, claiming that there would be too much public testimony, both for and against charter schools. Kovac’s motion lost and the council approved Rocketship’s application 14-1, with Ald. Robert Baumann voting against it.

Hines did not return the Shepherd’s request to comment on this article.

 

‘They Just Shut Us Down’

Marva Herndon, chair of the group Women Committed to an Informed Community, told the Shepherd that Hines and Mitchell run their committee meetings with no comments from the public. Like Hines, Herndon said that Mitchell has not allowed the public to speak since she’s become chair of CSRC this year, although previous chairs had let the public speak on occasion.

(Mitchell did not respond to the Shepherd’s request to comment on this article.)

“They just shut us down,” Herndon said.

Herndon had co-signed a letter critiquing Quest-Milwaukee’s application, which claimed that Quest had too few appropriately licensed teachers, lacked important technology contracts, needed $11,000—more than $3,000 above the $7,777 per-pupil taxpayer-funded tuition rate—to be sustainable, and questioned whether the Quest board could truly come up with a valid two-thirds majority vote given that two of its three board members—Fuller and Deborah McGriff—are married.

They also questioned the relationships between and potential conflicts of interest of the Fuller-led Quest-Milwaukee, his Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), his Institute for the Transformation of Learning, and the members of the CSRC, who reviewed Fuller’s proposal.

While the letter was entered into the public record, the aldermen on the committee never mentioned its contents during their June 21 discussion with Mitchell or the Quest representatives.

In November, committee members voted to approve the CSRC’s recommendation that the city continue working with Fuller’s CEO Leadership Academy, even though it was among the lowest-performing schools chartered by the city. Members also voted to extend the time Fuller’s Quest-Milwaukee needed to get up and running.

 

Questions Lead to More Public Disclosure

Herndon said she’s so concerned about allowing the public to speak in Hines’s committee because it’s the first time—and pretty much only time—that information about the city’s charter schools is made available to the public.

Prior to Hines’s committee hearings, all discussion of the city’s current and pending charter schools takes place in the Mitchell-chaired CSRC.

But little is known about the committee, which has existed since 1993.

A review of the city’s website shows that the CSRC has never posted its agenda, minutes or notices of its meetings online—until Herndon’s group and the Shepherd raised the issue with Common Council members last week. Going forward, the CSRC’s meeting information will be available on the city’s Legistar service.

City Clerk Jim Owszarski told the Shepherd that the CSRC has complied with a city ordinance requiring that public meetings be publicly noticed 24 hours in advance in three places within City Hall. There is no city requirement for online public notices, Owszarski said.

Cindy Zautcke, who works as a policy analyst for Fuller’s Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette and acts as clerk for CSRC, said she provides the public with meeting agendas, minutes and material upon request. She provided a few of them to the Shepherd.

But Herndon said she and her group haven’t been so lucky.

“We have to fight to get that information from Cindy,” Herndon said.

CSRC members are also required to fill out statements of economic interest to ensure that there are no financial ties or conflicts of interest between committee members and the schools they oversee. But those financial documents are not available on the city’s website, either, although Owczarski said they are available upon request, and they were quickly provided to the Shepherd.

Then again, the financial information on those official statements isn’t always useful.

Council President Hines, who chairs the committee that oversees the charter schools, is the brother of Darryl Lynn Hines, who operates a city-chartered school.

But financial information about a sibling’s ties isn’t requested on the city’s financial disclosure form and Hines did not offer it during the Nov. 15 Steering and Rules Committee meeting, when he and his colleagues reviewed the city’s charter schools. The Darryl Lynn Hines Academy—along with Fuller’s CEO Leadership Academy—were among the lowest-performing schools chartered by the city. But the aldermen approved the CSRC’s recommendation that the city continue its relationship with both of them.

 

City charter system smells of insider trading cronyism

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 7:30 am

Marva Herndon (right) upset about greased wheels trickery in city charter approval also advocates for playwgrounds at voucher schools, a campaign that last summer brought support from now state senator Nikiya Harris.

By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Labor Press
Posted December 13, 2012

Charter schools are public schools funded by state taxes. They are approved by review committees with little input from local citizens and less control by voters than exists with elected school boards.

The city’s charter school system is a rampant demonstration of how to lock out parents and educators with more sophisticated viewpoints. They’re getting away with it because of an aura surrounding the term “charter schools.” Major player Capital Roundtable is even holding conferences citing the boom in “Private Equity Investing in For-Profit Education” and encouraging the market to get in on the charter school boom taxpayers unknowingly create.

These public schools, rather than rife with fresh ideas as was the hope and excuse, are replete with new perils about how to measure success and how political status and inside clout can reap financial rewards – loopholes spelled out in complicated state legislation.

The movement has been taken over by the same monied interests that propel voucher schools, that well-meant but sustained proven failure over two decades. And no wonder, since ideas that sound good on paper take years — from toddler to adolescence — to measure. And can end up worse for the majority of students.

The city system proves how the current charter fever has become another maddening example of ignorance and belief in a magic wand for education while mainly grabbing the public dollar. Notes sociologist Christopher Bonastia, “The widespread enthusiasm for and rapid proliferation of charter schools also appears to mirror a persistent issue in American education: Expanding new programs before we know if they work and can (or should be) replicated on a larger scale.”

(Conceding that the intentions of charter schools have changed over time, Prof. Bonastia also unsettles many African American backers of the charter whoopee with a historic reflection on how the original concept was used by segregationists to avoid the US Supreme Court.)

He is hardly as unhappy as Marva Herndon, Milwaukee chair of Women Committed to an Informed Community, which pushes the city to require playgrounds at new voucher schools (with mixed success) and tirelessly attacks the city for its lack of transparency in charter approval.

“We are the angry ladies who keep pestering the aldermen with letters and at hearings about caring about children’s circumstances,” said Herndon.

“We are actually not against either vouchers or charters. What put us on this mission was how the city was sliding these schools in, often into failing buildings, and there was no money for city residents. They are watering down building codes and endangering the physical and mental health of kids in this rush.”

Common Council President Willie Hines, cited as overriding power in charter approval.

Republicans lawmakers such as Dale Schultz also worry about this rush to the charter movement. He blocked a new statewide authorizing agency last year for fear that would simply create yet another expensive untested school district for state taxpayers without clear returns.

“Before we rush to blow the cap off of charter schools, let’s fully understand what the impact will be, especially on our rural schools,” said Schultz “Most of the school boards are just incensed about this. It does take control away from local communities.”

Herndon’s outrage bubbles over Northpoint Lighthouse, 4200 W. Douglas Ave., a city charter her group vehemently objected to because its $13,000 warehouse building abuts an old rail-line on ground never submitted for environmental testing.

Despite her hard facts, the city didn’t stop the deal. It still got the votes to open. She is not alone in thinking the fix was in.

“So now children are going to school in an old steel processing plant that had never been tested for ground pollution or suitability for human habitation,” said Herndon. “These games make us show up at every hearing until someone listens.”

Political power plays muscle games at the city where Common Council President Willie Hines is “deeply involved in charter cronyism” and controls influential committee assignments that none of his fellow African American aldermen dare buck – yet it is their districts dominated by this rush to voucher and charter approval. The small contingent of aldermen challenging knee-jerk charter approval are Tony Zielinski, Nik Kovac, Jose Perez and Bob Baumann.

Citizens are understandably confused about charter schools and the voucher school expansion in Milwaukee and Racine, which city property taxpayers do help pay for without direct say and that mainly religious groups operate as non-public schools with low standards of training for teachers hired – and fired. Disturbingly, many of the same players are involved, from Gov. Scott Walker down.

So let’s do a charter primer.

In Milwaukee, different governmental units can authorize charter schools. The city itself and UWM approve charter schools but it is the city that is tied most closely to Howard Fuller, his Marquette University Institute for the Transformation of Learning and another organization he founded, the BAEO (Black Alliance for Educational Options).

Attending a recent event were two education leaders, MTEA President Bob Peterson and his wife, accomplished blogger Barbara Miner.

Charter schools are also created under the Milwaukee Public Schools, but MPS keeps revenue in the city and keeps those student bodies included in the state aid funding formula for the school district.

However, this is not true of charter schools created by the city or UWM. The state’s own legislative fiscal bureau spells out their lack of responsibility to local coffers: “These pupils are not counted by any school district for the purposes of revenue limits and aid membership.”

So in these cases any rewards generated are not required for city or even state use, yet state taxpayer money pays for these charters. Nor are the students counted in the determination of state aid for the city school district, though charters are technically also public schools.

In contrast, MPS creates “instrumentality charters,” which have union teachers and also “non-instrumentality” charters, which do not have union teachers but count attendees as MPS students for aid purposes. These “non-instrumentality” schools are not embraced but tolerated by the MTEA (teachers union).

“We support instrumentality charter schools that allow for creativity yet are closely tied to MPS and its initiatives,” said MTEA President Bob Peterson. “We recognize that when a city charter school switches their charter to MPS, it helps the financial bottom line for children in Milwaukee.”

Peterson went on to say, “This community has to understand that MPS is the only educational institution in the city that has the capacity, commitment and legal obligation to serve all students in Milwaukee.”

Two other government entities have been approved to charter in the Milwaukee area but have not stepped heavily into the game – the Milwaukee Area Technical College not at all, and UW-Parkside, which has stuck a toe in the water.

Charters require review committees, but allow for-profit corporations to be subcontracted, which produces the danger of money under the table much like the old days of “rent a citizen” – a term famous from the era when cable companies competing for municipal business would hire public officials to lobby for them.

Of course, you don’t have to accept money under the table since many charters pay leaders without public citizen review and their lobbying groups such as BAEO can help campaign efforts for friendly politicians.

The public – not just unaware of the profoundly different mechanisms of vouchers and charters though taxpayers pay for both – are also unaware of the lack of transparency. It was recently socked to them in an online blog by education expert Barbara Miner, who sought for weeks to learn about city charters. Even UWM, which at least has its educational departments pick the review committee, makes you dig to find out who these are, when they meet and how the public can attend.

MPS knows better. It is a traditional public system with open elections and regular required meetings. Other review committees can dodge open access but MPS makes sure their board committee are good about advance notice to discuss charter schools and hold public sessions with parents and other interested parties. Its members also know they face regular voter scrutiny, as many will next April.

MPS board member Peter Blewett criticizes MMAC weakening of public education.

Other government agencies seem to relish invisibility. “The city charter committee used to hold their meetings in Fuller’s offices at Marquette until we kept complaining that wasn’t kosher,” laughs Herndon. “Then they moved to City Hall — and you know how bad the acoustics are in those chambers. So no minutes, no mikes, no television broadcasts, no E-notify of the next meeting. But we keep showing up.”

The conflict with community groups came to a head in November when Hines chastised citizens at a council meeting for letters to alderman objecting to one major charter approval, saying they should have spoken up at committee hearings – only to be reminded by letter that they were at those hearings and Hines as chair shut them down as his “prerogative” and even called security to eject one resident for objecting to the high-handed tactics.

This process can hardly be described as open but it allowed the city to ramrod through some powerful charter companies to run schools here, several also receiving federal grants through the state department of public instruction. Among the biggies are Fuller’s Quest and Rocketship.

Fuller and some other charter programs also maneuver “umbrella” approval to open several schools under the same brand, advancing chances for multiple implementing $250,000 grants (taxpayer money). When you unfold the Fuller umbrella some familiar failed voucher names fall out — along with a lot of taxpayer grant money.

In contrast, MPS has been forthright. It has turned down some distasteful schools first approved by the city — such as AQS, which had a bad rep in Illinois and Indiana according to reports. So when MPS said no, AQS stepped back across the street and won approval from the city.

MPS is making deals with highly regarded companies that run “non-instrumentality” charters. One is Universal Milwaukee Community Charter School, from a Philadelphia company that already operates distant charter schools involving 4,000 students. Here it would start with 600 students and build each year into a full K-12, with 1200 students for MPS.

A big champion of Universal — also an inner city real estate development company headed by Rahim Islam — is MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton, a Philadelphia transfer who saw firsthand its education successes.

Another “non-instrumentality” initiative is Milwaukee College Prep, which already runs three MPS charter schools and next year plans a fourth, K-8. MPS charter schools by negotiation are rigorously reviewed to close if they fail, scrutinized along the way with public input in both their selection and operation.

MPS has also received government grants to initiate charter operations MTEC School of Environmental Science, Northeast Campus School and Banner School. But when it comes to grants, MPS brings up the hind end compared to the city, where Quest and Rocketship each got $250,000 and three UWM charter schools got $600,000 — Breakwater Lighthouse, Northwest Scholars and Woodlands School II. With more in the wings.

The growth in charter schools is doubly alarming to many education experts in both parties and on local levels. Even outside Milwaukee it is viewed as an echo of the city’s failed voucher program, though the mechanics of funding are quite different. Other school districts actually benefit from Milwaukee’s voucher funding through a complicated formula but know that won’t last if vouchers are expanded beyond the city. Charter schools, they say, could damage everyone immediately.

“The voucher program is so lousy,” one education insider told me, whose position in negotiations demanded confidentiality, “that you have to wonder what is possessing Walker and the MMAC (Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce) to keep wasting money on expanding it. Are they trying to prove that business people can waste money better than anyone else? Except maybe the charter people?”

And sure enough, a leader of the MMAC, Tim Sheehy, also sits on the Rocketship board, a charter that sailed through the city.

Said MPS board member Peter Blewett, “The students have to be enraged at the MMAC, at any people attacking not helping the critical skills they need to succeed. Don’t think the students don’t notice how the same people pushing them into charter and voucher schools are also trying to take away their right to vote.”

MPS board member Larry Miller, while an outspoken liberal, echoes many conservatives in questioning why the state is creating yet another school district to siphon money without proof of success.

The charter school movement is “designed to flood the market and destroy true public education,” he said. “MPS has lost $8 million to charters in the last year – and while that may not seem as bad as the $55 million that vouchers have cost us, it is growing.”

“One reason we approve our own charters is self-defense,” Miller adds, “since we keep the kids counted, influence their educational excellence and protect revenue. Our deal with Universal requires them to keep the money in Milwaukee.”

The city charters have no such hooks.

Some charter schools use Teach for America, a part of AmeriCorps and often promoted for the quality of its graduates from higher education. But statistics indicate most leave the teaching profession after the two year commitment — another signal that the days of certified teachers as a lifelong profession are coming to an end and another reminder there is stick-to-itiveness value in seniority.

Now lower-paid teachers at charter schools are also starting to question what they’ve got themselves into. A non-union moderate made that point in an interview. “I may lose my job when I become too expensive to keep because of years of experience or this push for merit pay at a company concerned about profit share,” he said. “So I could get fired the longer I stay and the minute I become better for students. So I may need to start looking now at helping my charter school form a teachers union.”

Howard Fuller’s Marquette University portrait

THE FULLER CONNECTION

The city’s charter choice of Quest-Milwaukee — despite detailed letters and opposition for conflict of interest and bad behavior from Marva Herndon’s women’s group — surely raises specters of insider trading. The school’s concept and outlines stem from Howard Fuller at Marquette University, a hidden decisive player in the city’s charter approval process.

Fuller is also a close political ally of key officials who appoint the steering committee. In contrast, the MPS selection process is more hands-off, refusing involvement of its selection committee in charter institutions.

Another large city approved charter program – California’s Rocketship Education – grew out of a Catholic parish and now is accused of suppressing spending on special education teachers. Here, too, the Fuller brush sweeps along. A leader of Rocketship is Deborah McGriff, Fuller’s wife, considered a key component of his education philosophy and a leader of Edison School, a national charter for-profit operation that was bought out after years of financial and educational failure.

Fuller also plays a strong role in state political decisions of determining and accrediting voucher schools, which brings these two diverse concepts – vouchers and charters — uncomfortably close together, as does the lobbying participation of his BAEO group, particularly since BAEO members dominate the city charter committee.

Among those discomforting connections: The city has also approved charters for CEO Leadership Academy, also connected to Fuller, a school that once had the reputation of worst performing Milwaukee voucher school – but eight years of such failure didn’t cause the Common Council to hesitate in granting a charter.

A charter was also given to the Darrell Hines Academy though his brother, Ald. Willlie Hines, appoints three of the city’s charter controllers and is considered a close political ally of Fuller.

The city’s charter public face? It’s a phone number to submit a charter application. Drill down into Legistar or the city’s own website calendar and you will find who the board members of the charter school review committee are (though some of that is out of date and one appointee seldom shows up; the majority are members of Fuller’s BAEO and/or come from Marquette or Stritch).

At the city the relationships with Hines smack critics as “destructive links” of politics and money. Three of the members are appointed by Hines. Three are appointed by Mayor Tom Barrett, who despite his nice guy reputation has a lot of fence mending with a suspicious education community that remembers his attempt to take over MPS two years ago and questions his judgment on approving city charter schools, they told me.

The member that no one seemed to object to was the CPA solely appointed by the city comptroller.

“Howard is quite a piece of work,” said one often admiring fellow black activist who insisted on anonymity. “He was a powerful civil rights leader who got special dispensation to become MPS superintendent. But when he couldn’t get it all his way working the inside, he bolted. Now he works the inside of other governments, all the people who hate MPS. I think he sincerely cares about educating minority children, but he’s knocking down rather than weighing what he’s doing.”

Yet Fuller has succeeded in making MPS look better despite the political financial attacks that weakened its student numbers. You can find a successful voucher school here and there, but you can also find low income families now desperate to move back to MPS public schools, while Gov. Walker seeks to expand vouchers to cover more than the low-income families they were once aimed at. This move up in income scale actually chilled Fuller, to his credit, yet he continues to support expansion projects in charter and voucher schools that will quickly do more of the same.

The old Fuller the colleague remembers “would have been the first in the street protesting someone playing both sides of the fence.”

December 12, 2012

Milwaukee: Does City Hall Have A Clue About What’s Going On At Its Charters Schools?

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 3:54 pm

By Barbara Miner Dec. 12, 2012 View From the Heartland blog

It seemed like a simple idea: follow up on a recent media report about the rise in “independent” charter schools in Milwaukee and get specific lists of such charters overseen by the City of Milwaukee, by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and by the Milwaukee Public Schools.

Little did I know that this simple idea would become an ordeal.

Getting lists of this year’s charters from MPS and UWM was relatively easy via their websites. Getting a list from the City of Milwaukee was an exercise in frustration. It took me two days, eight hours on the phone and computer, and dozens of emails before a list was sent to me.

Which made me wonder. Does anybody at City Hall have a clue what’s really going on at the city’s charter schools?

There are 11,938 students in the “independent” charters in Milwaukee, with the schools funded by more than $92 million in taxpayer dollars. Most of the students are at City of Milwaukee and UWM charters, where lines of responsibility and public oversight are, to say the least, murky.

Given the difficulties in getting the most basic of information from the city— a list of its schools — it became impossible to shake the fear that public oversight of these charter school dollars is shrinking almost as fast as the independent charters are growing.

From what I can tell, “independent” has become a euphemism for easing the public out and turning schools over to private entities that operate with minimal public input and transparency. “Privately run” seems a far better description of such charter schools.

But shouldn’t we be worried when we use public tax dollars to shift the education of our children to private interests skilled at circumventing public transparency and oversight?

If, for example, a problem erupts at an MPS school, you know who to call: your local school board member or the MPS central office. But what if there’s a problem at a City of Milwaukee or UWM charter. Who do you call? I’m not sure anyone really knows.

CHARTER SCHOOL COMPLEXITY
Charter schools are the latest rage in education, particularly charters that operate independent of a school district’s democratically elected school board. A little background is helpful.

Charter schools have their roots among progressive educators in the 1990s who wanted charter contracts with school districts so they could operate outside the bureaucracy and experiment. The goal was to improve academic achievement, strengthen the connections between school and community, and use the lessons learned to improve public schools overall.

Thankfully, some charter schools still uphold those values. But in recent years, the charter movement has become the darling of hedge-fund managers and entrepreneurs who see a big pot of money in public schools. And it is these forces that are driving the charter school movement’s dominant agenda of promoting privately run charters that are independent of school board supervision.

Like their private-sector counterparts, these charter entrepreneurs tend to chafe at public oversight and control. They also know that market share is the name of the game. Thus there has been a proliferation of national franchises of charters, which use cost-efficient, cookie-cutter programs that they market to financially strapped urban districts.

Not surprisingly, the growth of charters has coincided with the market-place approach to education that has gained supremacy in recent decades. In this education marketplace, students and families are consumers, not deciders, and “choice” is the king of all values. (Whether there is much qualitative difference in Milwaukee’s “choices” is another matter, given that the schools in the city are circumscribed by harsh realities of overwhelming poverty, joblessness and segregation.)

In Milwaukee, three different entities grant charters: the City of Milwaukee, UWM, and MPS. All City of Milwaukee and UWM charters are “independent” charters run by the private organizations that are granted the charter. MPS has two types of charters, both of which answer to the elected school board: “instrumentality” charters that are staffed by district employees and follow many of the guidelines that apply to all MPS schools, and “non-instrumentalities” that are “independent” charters run as private entities. (Is your head spinning with all these details yet?)

Back to my search for a list of the independent charter schools in Milwaukee.

CITY OF MILWAUKEE CHARTERS
I knew that a list from the City of Milwaukee was especially important. The city’s charters are on the biggest growth spurt, and the city has been in the forefront of signing contracts with charter management franchises based in other cities.

I started my search at the City of Milwaukee webpage — my go-to spot for all sorts of information, from winter parking regulations to the fall leaf collection schedule. At first, it seemed I was in luck. The drop-down box on the right-hand side of the homepage, right under “Contact Elected Officials,” had a link for “Explore Education Options.” I clicked.

Imagine my dismay, however, when the new web page had absolutely nothing on the city’s charter schools. There were links to MPS, to a private school directory, to the voucher program, to colleges and universities, and to information on student aid and other educational resources.

But not a word about City of Milwaukee charter schools. Which inevitably led to the question: Does City Hall know, or even much care, what happens at its schools?

I then tried my next-best Internet trick. I wrote “charter schools” in the web page’s search button. Most of the matches were useless ¬— one took me back to the Explore Education Options site. But the top match (Charter School Application) provided a name and phone number. I wasn’t interested in applying to start a charter school, but I figured that person could help. I called the number.

Once again my hopes were dashed. The person answering the phone was extremely nice — but she was at the Institute for Transformation of Learning at Marquette University. She wasn’t even a City of Milwaukee employee.

I asked her who would be the best person to contact at City Hall, and she gave me the name and number of a person in the department of administration she worked with. I called the number and left a message explaining I was looking for information on the City of Milwaukee charters.

I have learned not to wait for return phone calls from City Hall, so I did what every frustrated taxpayer does. I contacted the members of the Common Council. After all, the city charter contracts are subject to the Common Council’s approval. As the saying goes, the buck stops there.

I emailed each alderman and asked for a list of the city’s charters, including contact information and basic data on student demographics and enrollment, and for any type of annual report on the charters. I also asked each alderman which charter schools are in their district.

Six of the aldermen replied. None had a list of City of Milwaukee charters, although they suggested whom I could contact. Only one alderman, Jim Bohl, responded to my question about charters in his district. He said he did not have any.

Several forwarded my request to the city’s Legislative Reference Bureau, which provided links to further information, including how to find reports on schools that the city contracted with last year. It turns out the bureau’s data was incomplete, but it was better than nothing.

But my simple goal that started it all was still elusive. I still could not find a list of this year’s City of Milwaukee charter schools

I went to bed Monday night wondering what it would take to get the information.
On Tuesday morning, just as I was ready to start at it again, the woman at the Department of Administration returned my call. (Thank god for hard-working support staff.)

A few emails and about 40 minutes later — and more than a day after I started my quest — she emailed me a list of the City of Milwaukee’s nine charter schools for 2012-13. She didn’t have the number of students enrolled, but at least she had a list.

If anything, however, I was more concerned than when I started.

If the City of Milwaukee wants to be a major player in educating our city’s children, shouldn’t the aldermen have a better sense of the city’s charter schools? If nothing else, a list of the schools?

Who’s really in charge of the City of Milwaukee charter schools? Why did the only phone number for charters on the city’s website lead to the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette?

Stay tuned. I have a feeling that, when it comes to public transparency and input, problems in getting a list of City of Milwaukee charters may be just the tip of the iceberg.

—This blog is cross-posted at my blog, “View from the Heartland: Honoring the Wisconsin tradition of common decency and progressive politics.” At the blog, you can also sign up for email notifications.

Serious Questions Raised About Charter Management Organization Contracted by the City of Milwaukee

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 3:42 pm

Following is a 2-part article from Terry Falk’s blog, Yellow Bus, published in MilwaukeeMag.com.

Questionable Quality at American Quality Schools
AQS in Indiana Highlight Problems for this School Provider BY Terrence Falk 11/21/2012

Recently Milwaukee’s Mayor and Common Council approved a charter elementary school for next year run by American Quality Schools. In addition, AQS also came to Milwaukee Public Schools with a proposal to open a secondary school, but a school board committee looked deeper and decided not to advance the proposal. AQS will not contest the committee’s recommendation at the full school board meeting.

What tipped committee members to AQS problems was an article in Fort Wayne’s daily paper, The Journal Gazette.  The Dec. 13, 2011, article highlighted the AQS’s poor academic grades in Indiana. Financial audits brought out more problems.

Wrote reporter Karen Francisco: “A quick survey of AQS’s financial oversight is not reassuring. A March 2011 State Board of Accounts audit for East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy shows a laundry list of accounting errors: overdrawn cash balances, fund transfers not approved by the school board, incorrect postings on loan payments, negative disbursements, official bonds not filed with the county recorder, incorrect reporting of enrollment, receipts not issued, and claims paid and checks issued prior to school board approval.” Other AQS schools had similar problems.

I asked MPS Chief Accountability Officer, Robert DelGingaro, to take a look. DelGingaro just didn’t stop at the audits; he made phone calls to Indiana state officials. It was an unflattering picture of AQS.

A Ball State University educational audit of Indiana’s charter schools showed that all of AQS’s secondary schools were receiving poorer grades from the state from one year to the next.

On Nov. 15, all this evidence was presented to a committee of the Milwaukee School Board. This committee turned down AQS. What the committee did not know was another bombshell was going off at AQS’s Thurgood Marshall Academy in Fort Wayne, Ind.

The Journal Gazette Nov. 13th headline was “Marshall academy chief quits.” After less than six months on the job, its principal, Nicole Chisley, quit the school. Although Marshall officials boasted in July that they would reach their goal of 225 students, Marshall opened with only 130 students.

This forced the Urban League, who actually holds the charter, to take out a $150,000 loan to keep the school afloat. But enrollment got worse, not better. Acting Principal Tameka Wilson admitted that the school was losing students, enrollment was now down to 100 students, and the school faced major discipline problems.

A Nov. 13th editorial by The Journal Gazette slammed Marshall Academy: “The city’s newest charter school missed all of its announced enrollment targets and already lost its first principal.” The paper blamed much of the schools failure on its inability to get community support. “A hearing on the charter application overwhelmingly drew opponents.”

Nor would the paper place the blame on its principal, Nicole Chisley, who was quickly hired by the public schools. “’People should reach their own conclusions concerning what Ms. Chisley’s departure says about Thurgood Marshall’s ability to retain quality teachers and administrators,’ said FWCS [Fort Wayne Community Schools] board President Mark GiaQuinta.”

The blame game is about to begin. The Urban League holds the charter, and if the school closes, this organization is likely to be stuck with tens of thousands of dollars in bills. AQS, who manages the school, will likely get its $88,000 in management fees and will probably blame the school’s failures on The Urban League.

The City of Milwaukee’s charter with AQS may produce an excellent school, but the city is taking a big risk. City officials must focus on improving roads, providing police protection, and picking up the garbage. I’m not sure they should determine who can teach our children.

Part II: The Shrinking of American Quality Schools
Did the City of Milwaukee Make a Mistake in Selecting AQS? BY Terrence Falk 11/28/2012

[In my previous posting, I outlined how the school charter provider, American Quality Schools, was having difficulty in Indiana. This is important because AQS has contracted with the City of Milwaukee to run a charter elementary school beginning next year. A school board committee of Milwaukee Public School did not advance a charter secondary school to be run by AQS. In this posting, I outline the difficulties AQS has faced in its hometown of Chicago.]

2011 was not a good year for the Chicago charter school provider, American Quality Schools.

In March of 2011, AQS elected not to renew its charter to run Austin Business Academy in the former Chicago Austin High School. AQS’s president, Michael Bakalis, concluded that his organization could not properly operate the academy without a financial loss, and that Chicago Public Schools did not fulfill promises such as providing the school with a new library. Bakalis also stated that the multiple-schools-in-one building at Austin was unworkable. AQS controlled only one floor of the building rather than overseeing the entire operation.

But critics of AQS pointed to a continual turnover of teachers and four principals in three years that plagued the operation at Business Academy. The school also promised to provide each student with an internship to work in area businesses, but the internships never materialized.

At the time, Bakalis said that AQS had no plans to open another high school in Chicago and instead would concentrate on running its existing Chicago elementary schools.

But on May 23, 2011, the Chicago International Charter School announced that it was transferring five elementary charter schools from AQS to two other providers. AQS lost out in the bidding process to Distinctive Schools and Victory Partners.

Some of AQS’s schools, such as Bucktown, were highly rated, so AQS was not generally seen as a failed charter provider. But some schools, like Washington Park, were clearly a problem.  “I will be candid with you, it [Washington Park] was one of our underperforming [schools],” said Beth Purvis, executive director of CICS. “After 11 years, we thought it was good to bring in some new ideas.”

Today AQS operates only Passages Charter and Plato Learning Academy in Chicago. It operates one school in St. Louis and eight schools in Indiana.

Discovering the problems for AQS in both Chicago and Indiana took some time, but all the information I found was available at Internet sites of daily newspapers and governmental agencies. A few phone calls helped. Other MPS board and staff members were able to uncover this information as well. It is questionable whether anyone from Milwaukee city government did the same in awarding their own charter to AQS.

Chartering of schools is beginning to change. Just a few years ago, chartering bodies like MPS or the city spent the majority of its time examining the charter applications. We looked at the providers’ finances, educational plans, and personal resumes. But more providers are coming before chartering bodies with a track record. That requires that we look at their performance in other communities.

Chartering providers are quick to highlight their successes if they have positive track records. Providers with poor track records will say little about what they have done elsewhere, and these failing providers are easy to spot. What is more difficult is identifying providers with spotty records: some excellent schools as well as major disasters. Such providers are likely to cherry pick their own data – AQS is clearly one of those providers.

We must retool our chartering measurements to investigate chartering providers to see what they have done in other communities.

December 7, 2012

For Young Latino Readers, an Image Is Missing

Filed under: Multiculturalism — millerlf @ 9:46 am

By MOTOKO RICH, December 4, 2012 NYTimes

PHILADELPHIA — Like many of his third-grade classmates, Mario Cortez-Pacheco likes reading the “Magic Tree House” series, about a brother and a sister who take adventurous trips back in time. He also loves the popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” graphic novels.

But Mario, 8, has noticed something about these and many of the other books he encounters in his classroom at Bayard Taylor Elementary here: most of the main characters are white. “I see a lot of people that don’t have a lot of color,” he said.

Hispanic students now make up nearly a quarter of the nation’s public school enrollment, according to an analysis of census data by the Pew Hispanic Center, and are the fastest-growing segment of the school population. Yet nonwhite Latino children seldom see themselves in books written for young readers. (Dora the Explorer, who began as a cartoon character, is an outlier.)

Education experts and teachers who work with large Latino populations say that the lack of familiar images could be an obstacle as young readers work to build stamina and deepen their understanding of story elements like character motivation.

While there are exceptions, including books by Julia Alvarez, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Alma Flor Ada and Gary Soto, what is available is “not finding its way into classrooms,” said Patricia Enciso, an associate professor at Ohio State University. Books commonly read by elementary school children — those with human characters rather than talking animals or wizards — include the Junie B. Jones, Cam Jansen, Judy Moody, Stink and Big Nate series, all of which feature a white protagonist. An occasional African-American, Asian or Hispanic character may pop up in a supporting role, but these books depict a predominantly white, suburban milieu.

“Kids do have a different kind of connection when they see a character that looks like them or they experience a plot or a theme that relates to something they’ve experienced in their lives,” said Jane Fleming, an assistant professor at the Erikson Institute, a graduate school in early childhood development in Chicago.

She and Sandy Ruvalcaba Carrillo, an elementary school teacher in Chicago who works with students who speak languages other than English at home, reviewed 250 book series aimed at second to fourth graders and found just two that featured a Latino main character.

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education, which compiles statistics about the race of authors and characters in children’s books published each year, found that in 2011, just over 3 percent of the 3,400 books reviewed were written by or about Latinos, a proportion that has not changed much in a decade.

As schools across the country implement the Common Core — national standards for what students should learn in English and math — many teachers are questioning whether nonwhite students are seeing themselves reflected in their reading.

For the early elementary grades, lists of suggested books contain some written by African-American authors about black characters, but few by Latino writers or featuring Hispanic characters. Now, in response to concerns registered by the Southern Poverty Law Center and others, the architects of the Common Core are developing a more diverse supplemental list. “We have really taken a careful look, and really think there is a problem,” said Susan Pimentel, one of the lead writers of the standards for English language and literacy. “We are determined to make this right.”

Black, Asian and American Indian children similarly must dig deep into bookshelves to find characters who look like them. Latino children who speak Spanish at home and arrive at school with little exposure to books in English face particular challenges. A new study being released next week by pediatricians and sociologists at the University of California shows that Latino children start school seven months behind their white peers, on average, in oral language and preliteracy skills.

“Their oral language use is going to be quite different from what they encounter in their books,” said Catherine E. Snow, a professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. “So what might seem like simple and accessible text for a standard English speaker might be puzzling for such kids.”

Hispanic children have historically underperformed non-Hispanic whites in American schools. According to 2011 data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a set of exams administered by the Department of Education, 18 percent of Hispanic fourth graders were proficient in reading, compared with 44 percent of white fourth graders.

Research on a direct link between cultural relevance in books and reading achievement at young ages is so far scant. And few academics or classroom teachers would argue that Latino children should read books only about Hispanic characters or families. But their relative absence troubles some education advocates.

“If all they read is Judy Blume or characters in the “Magic Treehouse” series who are white and go on adventures,” said Mariana Souto-Manning, an associate professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College, “they start thinking of their language or practices or familiar places and values as not belonging in school.”

At Bayard Taylor Elementary in Philadelphia, a school where three-quarters of the students are Latino, Kimberly Blake, a third-grade bilingual teacher, said she struggles to find books about Latino children that are “about normal, everyday people.” The few that are available tend to focus on stereotypes of migrant workers or on special holidays. “Our students look the way they look every single day of the year,” Ms. Blake said, “not just on Cinco de Mayo or Puerto Rican Day.”

On a recent morning, Ms. Blake read from “Amelia’s Road” by Linda Jacobs Altman, about a daughter of migrant workers. Of all the children sitting cross-legged on the rug, only Mario said that his mother had worked on farms.

Publishers say they want to find more works by Hispanic authors, and in some cases they insert Latino characters in new titles. When Simon & Schuster commissioned writers to develop a new series, “The Cupcake Diaries,” it cast one character, Mia, as a Latino girl. “We were conscious of making one of the characters Hispanic,” said Valerie Garfield, a vice president in the children’s division, “and doing it in a way that girls could identify with, but not in a way that calls it out.”

In some respects, textbook publishers like Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt are ahead of trade publishers. Houghton Mifflin, which publishes reading textbooks, allocates exactly 18.6 percent of its content to works featuring Latino characters. The company says that percentage reflects student demographics.

Students should be able “to see themselves in a high-quality text,” said Jeff Byrd, senior product manager for reading at Houghton Mifflin.

But Latino education advocates and authors say they do not want schools to resort to tokenism. “My skin crawls a little when this literature is introduced because people are being righteous,” said Ms. Alvarez, the author of the “Tia Lola” series, as well as “Return to Sender.” “It should be as natural reading about these characters as white characters,” she said.

At Bayard Taylor, another third-grade teacher, Kate Cornell, said that she would love to explore more options featuring Hispanic characters. “It would be more helpful as a teacher,” she said, “to have these go-to books where I can say ‘I think you are going to like this book. This book reminds me of you.’ ”

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/05/education/young-latino-students-dont-see-themselves-in-books.html?hpw&_r=0

 

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