Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

January 29, 2015

School Board Michael Bonds on Alberta Darling’s Proposal to Create a Milwaukee “Turn-around” School District

Filed under: MPS — millerlf @ 5:16 pm

Statement by President Michael Bonds, Ph.D., regarding the New Opportunities for Milwaukee document

 

Milwaukee Public Schools was not sent a copy of this plan, which was provided to the district by the news media.
We’ve had a series of very positive discussions with key Republicans over the past few weeks about what a good accountability proposal looks like. In fact, yesterday’s hearing on Senate Bill 1 focused on sensible, proven strategies to improve outcomes for students. The legislative leaders we’ve met with also have a much better understanding of the significant steps MPS is engaged in now to improve student outcomes.
This plan is a step backward in those efforts and discussions. What we have read about the plan indicates it has significant problems and unintended consequences and frankly includes some of the worst attributes of Assembly Bill 1.

  • It’s important to remember that charter schools are not the simple answer to the challenges facing urban education. Stanford University did the most comprehensive studies (2009, 2013) of charter schools and found that nationally only 14 percent of charter schools outperformed traditional public schools.
  • An effort to create a turnaround district would have a devastating fiscal impact on the education of students remaining in MPS — and the city of Milwaukee — with the potential layoffs of hundreds of staff.
  • To state – as the proposal does – that this will have no impact on taxpayers ignores the fact these efforts have had huge costs in other communities where turnaround districts have been attempted.
  • This proposal would also result in the loss of local control by the elected Milwaukee Board of School Directors, local taxpayers and the Department of Public Instruction, which may create a potential constitutional issue.

While there may have been good intent, it harms the City of Milwaukee and takes away resources at the time the city and MPS students need them most.

 

– Dr. Michael Bonds, President, Milwaukee Board of School Directors
 

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January 28, 2015

Alberta Darling Proposes “Shock Doctrine: Disaster Capitalism” for Milwaukee

Filed under: Charter Schools,Darling — millerlf @ 9:22 pm

Alberta Darling Proposes “Disaster Capitalism” for Milwaukee. In Naomi Kline’s book, Shock Doctrine, she explains that “free market” policies have come to dominate the world– through the exploitation of disaster-shocked people. There are disaster zones in Milwaukee, but without investment (real money spent) nothing will change. In the Darling proposal it says, “The initiatives…(proposed)…will not cost any taxpayer, at any level of government, a single cent.”

 

GOP lawmakers to craft bill converting failing MPS schools to charters
By Erin Richards of the Journal Sentinel 1/28/15

Some Milwaukee public schools with failing grades on state report cards could be turned into charter schools overseen by a new local board, according to a host of education-reform proposals announced by two suburban Republican lawmakers Wednesday.

Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) introduced education and economic proposals as part of their legislative agenda for fighting poverty in Milwaukee during an informal meeting with reporters Wednesday.

Some of the ideas will be introduced as individual bills, others may get negotiated into the state budget, Kooyenga said.

One proposal calls for turning select MPS schools with failing grades into independent charter schools that do not employ unionized teachers or answer to the Milwaukee School Board.

Instead, those schools would be overseen by a new local board, which would entertain proposals from charter-school operators and award five-year contracts to operators that present the most compelling plans, according to the proposal.

A spokesperson from Darling’s office said details such as who would head the board and who would appoint or elect the members would be finalized in a forthcoming bill.

Darling characterized the proposal Wednesday as a “partnership” with MPS, and said she hopes to get some school board members and potentially even MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver on the new board.
But Driver said Wednesday during an “On the Issues” interview at the Marquette University Law School that she was not a fan of so-called “recovery districts.”
“To think you can close a school as a traditional school and reopen it as a charter tomorrow and get these great results is really misguided,” Driver told Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in law and public policy.
“I have 85% of my students living in poverty, we’re 86% students of color and 10% that are English language learners,” Driver added. “There are a number of other things we have to consider in terms of the programs, resources and the teachers that go into those schools besides just whether it’s a traditional school or a charter school.”

School Board Member Larry Miller said the proposals are an attempt to seize schools and flood the market with charters in Milwaukee. “This diversion is coming from the same people who blocked high speed rail (proposals) that would have created jobs and gotten people from the inner city to jobs (in the suburbs),” he said.

Miller added it was “incredibly arrogant” that the proposals to fight poverty in the city were coming from lawmakers representing two of Milwaukee’s wealthiest suburbs.

Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, said in a statement that the lawmakers’ plan for fighting poverty opens the door for handing over public schools to private companies, without offering new resources.
“We will unite with others in massive resistance to this senseless attack,” the statement said.

The other education proposals from Darling and Kooyenga include:
■ Streamline the process for allowing high-performing charter schools to open additional schools.
■ Convert the approximately $40 million MPS receives each year for school integration efforts within the system to a block grant with no state mandates.
■ Redirect $12 million from Cooperative Education Service Agency 1 in Pewaukee to establish a computer-programming charter school for high school students.
■ Allow schools to apply for and receive waivers from certain state mandates from the Department of Public Instruction.
■ Designate an existing staff member at the Department of Workforce Development into a full-time coordinator for dual enrollment programs for high school students at the state’s technical colleges.

Alberta Darling’s New Plan for Milwaukee and Its Schools

Filed under: Darling — millerlf @ 1:48 pm

Newly released, this “plan” is intended to target Milwaukee’s schools, unions, businesses and neighborhoods.

See for yourself at:

Darling Plan

January 26, 2015

4 City of Milwaukee Charters Reviewed, Getting Failing Grades

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 1:31 pm

Milwaukee’s Charter Schools Don’t Make the Grade

By Lisa Kaiser Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015 Sheppard Express
If Republican lawmakers think that charter schools are an effective vehicle to increase student performance while providing public transparency, they should take another look at the city of Milwaukee’s experience with its 10 charter schools.

Four of these taxpayer-funded schools are doing so poorly that, according to their annual review, a case could be made for shuttering them.
And major pieces of information haven’t been offered to the Common Council members who are ultimately responsible for the 3,500 students who attend city charters—including the fact that the FBI raided the national operator of one local charter school.

Yet last Thursday, in a Steering and Rules Committee meeting, the Charter School Review Committee (CSRC)—an appointed body made up primarily of charter advocates who provide oversight of and evaluate the city’s charter schools—only recommended putting two schools on probation, Milwaukee Math and Science Academy (MMSA) on West Burleigh Avenue and King’s Academy on North 60th Street.

The CSRC gave Milwaukee Math and Science Academy a rating of 66.4% on its scorecard, a D grade, for the 2013-2014 school year, making it a “problematic/struggling” school. The state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) gave it 48.1 out of a possible 100 points for the same year. The DPI said it “failed to meet expectations.”

King’s Academy earned a 67% rating and a D+ from the CSRC but fared slightly better with its DPI scores: 67.3 points, which “meets expectations.”

But as dismal as those scores are, MMSA and King’s Academy aren’t the worst performers.

That dubious honor goes to North Point Lighthouse Charter School on West Douglas Avenue, which earned a 58.1% or F from the CSRC and a 29.4% from the state DPI. Since the 2013-2014 academic year was only its second year of operation, the CSRC recommended some strategies for improvement and a mid-year assessment of its progress. The school, part of the national Lighthouse Academies network, got financial assistance from tennis pro Andre Agassi’s Canyon-Agassi Charter Facilities Fund for its building.

When presenting their annual review of the city’s 10 charter schools last week, the CSRC limited the discussion to the schools’ academic performance—even omitting the fact that Concept Schools, the Illinois-based national operator of MMSA, has been raided by the FBI in four states as part of an investigation into possible financial fraud. Concept Schools is run by a Turkish Islamic cleric who lives in the Poconos and the organization brings in Turkish teachers on H-1B visas, which are meant for recruiting hard-to-find workers, primarily in the high-tech sector, and not K-12 teachers, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Jeanette Mitchell, chair of the CSRC, told the Steering and Rules Committee that she wasn’t aware of the FBI raids on Concept Schools, even though it’s been widely reported in the press. An MMSA representative denied that the federal investigation had anything to do with his charter school and said that none of the MMSA teachers are here on a H-1B visa.

But Marva Herndon of Schools and Communities United, a charter critic, told the aldermen that they needed to take an in-depth evaluation of the school.
“You really must take notice,” Herndon said.
Milwaukee Common Council President Michael Murphy said he would look into the allegations.

A More Critical View of Charters

Charter critics provided a more robust view of the city’s program, arguing that it siphons off resources from Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and weakens the city’s fiscal picture; fails to shut down low-performing schools; and doesn’t provide enough transparency and accountability.

Jack Norman, a consultant for Schools and Communities United, argued that the charter advocates were providing an incomplete picture of the program for the council members. The CSRC doesn’t discipline schools that are new to the program, but Norman argued that some of the city’s failing charters have long track records as taxpayer-funded voucher schools that should be taken into consideration. The struggling King’s Academy, for example, began as a voucher school in 1999 and became a city charter school in 2010 and has been operating continuously for 15 years. MMSA can trace its lineage to Wisconsin Career Academy, an MPS charter school that was closed in 2012, as well as Wisconsin College Prep Academy, a voucher school that was shut down in 2013. He accused Lighthouse of “charter hopping or shopping” because it had received a charter from MPS and UW-Milwaukee before becoming a city charter.

Milwaukee Collegiate Academy, whose board chair is voucher architect Howard Fuller, opened as a voucher school in 2004, changed its name and became a charter in 2011, then changed its name again. The high school received a 68.2% or D+ from the CSRC, a “problematic/struggling” school.

Norman said the CSRC’s review included nothing about discipline, suspension or expulsion rates. He said data showed that Fuller’s high school expelled more than 10% of its students per year.

He also argued that the city’s charter school program affects the city’s financial outlook. The program destabilizes Milwaukee Public Schools by reducing student enrollment. A weakened MPS may not be able to make good on its bond payments and Norman warned that could make the city responsible for MPS’s debt. That’s because MPS is treated as a branch of city government for bonding.

“The city is ultimately on the hook for the $300-plus million in bonds that MPS has put out,” Norman said. “To the degree that MPS is put under greater financial pressures, in effect the city is, because the city is the ultimately responsible for that debt. In effect, the city charter program is helping to contribute to possible instability in the city’s own financial reporting.”
Hines Had Silenced the Critics
Last week’s presentation by the CSRC was unusual in that the Steering and Rules Committee allowed charter critics to voice their concerns in a public hearing.

In years past, then-Common Council President Willie Hines silenced opponents. As the Shepherd reported in December 2012, Hines went so far as to call security on charter critics who wanted to speak during a Steering and Rules Committee hearing on pending charter school applications. Hines’ brother runs the Darrell Lynn Hines College Preparatory Academy of Excellence, which received a 72.6% or C- from the CSRC last week, a “promising/good” rating.

Charter critic Fr. Tom Miller of MICAH also cried foul on the CSRC’s penchant for secrecy. For many years, the committee met at Howard Fuller’s Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University, didn’t publicly notice their meetings and wouldn’t offer up their meeting agendas or minutes. The CSRC still doesn’t post audio or video recordings of their meetings on the city’s website.

Common Council President Murphy, however, seems to be taking a more skeptical view of the city’s charter schools than his predecessor and allowed charter opponents to make presentations last Thursday. He also called for more public transparency of the CSRC.

During last week’s hearing, he sharply critiqued the Republicans’ proposal to turn failing public schools into charters and made the point very personal.

“I daresay that none of [the Republican legislators] are thinking about turning the failing public schools over to a school like yours, to be perfectly blunt,” Murphy said to Lighthouse Academy Principal Rachel Wagner.

Murphy told the Shepherd he disagreed with Gov. Scott Walker’s argument that the marketplace would sort out the high-performing schools from low performers as parents would enroll their kids in quality schools. Murphy said Milwaukee’s experience showed otherwise. After all, he said, North Point Lighthouse Charter School is struggling, yet the majority of parents told the school’s evaluators that they thought their kids were getting a good education.

“It’s our responsibility, since we have the jurisdiction of overseeing this, to improve those schools or not allow them to operate in the city,” Murphy said.
Murphy said he was open to shutting down the city’s worst charters.

“It’s something I’m considering taking action on but it’s complicated,” Murphy said. “It doesn’t happen overnight nor should it, because you don’t want to put hundreds of students out on the street the next day. But it’s something that I’m going to talk to the review committee about. Perhaps we should be tightening up our standards of who participates in this program. I don’t like to see our kids experimented on.”

January 25, 2015

Who should lead K12 school improvement? Venture capitalists or communities and educators

Filed under: Charter Schools,Education Policy,Privatization,Public Education — millerlf @ 12:54 pm

According to the NewSchools Venture Fund it should be venture capitalists.

What is NewSchools Venture Fund?

This is an investment organization that has an all-white, 10 member board of directors, whose combined portfolio reaches deep into U.S. corporate and entrepreneurial investment endeavors.

Their stated purpose opens with– “Our mission is to transform public education through powerful ideas and passionate entrepreneurs…” Of course what they don’t openly say is that this work will lead to profit for investors, their companies and the individual portfolios of many entrepreneurs.

What they seek is public money to be diverted from public schools leading to investment gains in technology, real estate, curriculum, corporate charters, high paid “non-profit” charter managers and the growing education “consulting” industry.

In education, they are connected to much of the school “reform” industry. If you look at their strategies in individual cities, they are not about educating all kids.

The description of the Board members of New School Venture Fund reads as follows:

Venture capital investor in the medical, healthcare and biotechnology sectors.

Sponsor of a series of investments including Compaq, Cypress, Intuit, Netscape, Lotus, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, S3, Sun Microsystems, Amazon.com, Symantec and Google.

Founder and CEO of Silicon Compilers and currently serves on the Board of Directors of Google.

Founder of LAUNCH Media Inc. in 1994, which delivered music and music-related content online, and he led the company through its acquisition by Yahoo! in 2001.

Managing Director of Endeavor Catalyst which is is leading the formation and capital raise of the fund supporting high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets and a partner at Soda Rock Partners LLC, supporting entrepreneurs to build leading high-growth companies and organizations.

Has served on the board of more than 25 venture-backed companies across a broad range of industries including Danger Inc (Acquired Nasdaq: MSFT), Sabrix (Acquired NYSE: TWX), Quinstreet (IPO Nasdaq: QNST), Stonyfield Farms (Acquired Groupe Danone), Account Now (Private), Mirra (Acquired NYSE: STX), Posit Science (Private), Post Communications (Acquired Nasdaq: NCNT). She also served on the Board of the National Venture Capital Association (“NVCA), the Coppola Companies (Francis Ford Coppola), and as Chairman of the USA for Madrid-based FON.

Managing Partner in North Bay Associates and Kokino LLC, and a co-founder of TRQ Management Company, all investment management businesses.

Past president and remains active with Cheyenne Petroleum Company, an oil and gas exploration and production company, and he was a co-founder of Soundview Real Estate Partners, a real estate investment company. In addition, he serves on the boards of various companies in the pharmaceutical industry.

Focuses on investments in the financial-services sector and in emerging software technologies. Has been called a “serial entrepreneur.” Founding CEO of Good Technology (acquired by Motorola); co-founder of Drugstore.com (DSCM) and general manager and president of Optical Engineering, Inc. Has worked at Netscape, Hewlett Packard and Bain.

For the complete description of the Board, see below. You can also learn more from their website at:
http://www.newschools.org/team

Their Milwaukee connection is through Deborah McGriff, a “Team” member, who served as a deputy Superintendent for Milwaukee Public Schools.

At the 2014 conference Howard Fuller gave opening comments. They can be seen at:

Full descriptions of NewSchool Venture Fund Board:
• Brook Byers, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
• John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
• Chris Gabrieli, Co-Founder and Chairman, Massachusetts 2020
• Dave Goldberg, Chief Executive Officer, SurveyMonkey
• Laurene Powell Jobs, Founder and Chair of the Board, Emerson Collective
• Joanna Rees, Founder and Managing Partner, VSP Capital
• Jon Sackler, Managing Partner, North Bay Associates and Kokino LLC
• Kim Smith, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Pahara Institute
• Rob Stavis, Partner, Bessemer Venture Partners
• Dave Whorton, Managing Director, Tugboat Ventures

(more…)

Fatten Your Portfolio: Invest in Charter Schools

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 12:52 pm

CEO of Entertainment Properties explains why charter schools are good for your portfolio investment even if the school closes (“…because of lease arrangements there is no loss of rents…no impact to rent role.”)
You won’t believe this. “Charter school business is our highest growth and most appealing segment right now.”
http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000109398

 

January 19, 2015

Percentage of Poor Students in Public Schools Rising: Majority of Public School Students From Low Income Families

Filed under: Poverty — millerlf @ 12:48 pm

By MOTOKO RICH JAN. 16, 2015 NYTimes

Just over half of all students attending public schools in the United States are now eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, according to a new analysis of federal data.

In a report released Friday by the Southern Education Foundation, researchers found that 51 percent of children in public schools qualified for the lunches in 2013, which means that most of them come from low-income families. By comparison, 38 percent of public school students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches in 2000.

According to the report, which analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics, a majority of students in 21 states are poor. Close to two-thirds of those states are in the South, which has long had a high concentration of poor students. In Mississippi, for example, close to three-fourths of all public school students come from low-income families.

But the West also has a large and growing proportion of low-income students. Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada have high rates of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.

Children who are eligible for such lunches do not necessarily live in poverty. Subsidized lunches are available to children from families that earn up to $43,568, for a family of four, which is about 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

The number of children eligible for subsidized lunches has probably increased in part because the federal Agriculture Department now allows schools with a majority of low-income students to offer free lunches to all students, regardless of whether they qualify on an individual basis or not.

Still, it is clear that public schools are educating higher numbers of low-income children, and the trend has been going on for much longer than the period that started with the most recent recession.

Steve Suitts, vice president of the Southern Education Foundation, which is based in Atlanta, noted that an increasing number of low-income immigrant families were moving to regions where they had not gone before.

Students from such families tend to arrive at school with different needs from those from middle-class and affluent families. They may have more medical problems or behavioral issues and need extra academic help. Unlike their wealthier peers, they do not have the benefit of music lessons, private sports leagues, tutoring or trips to cultural events, and their schools are left to fill in the gaps.

“We in no way are providing schools and teachers in schools with what it takes to educate low-income students today, as they continue to become a huge part of the school population,” Mr. Suitts said.

The Obama administration has indicated that it plans to request an additional $1 billion in 2016 for the program that funnels money to schools with high percentages of poor students.

“Now more than ever, it is critical that we as a country ensure schools have the resources and support necessary to prepare every student — no matter his or her ZIP code — for college, careers and life,” said Dorie Nolt, a spokeswoman for the federal Education Department. Critics of federal education policy say that there is too narrow a focus on academic standards and testing as the way of measuring whether poorer students are getting equal opportunities. Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, suggested that policymakers look at schools in the wealthiest communities as models of what all schools should offer.

“Just tell me what you provided for those kids, that those parents said was absolutely crucial for my kids to succeed in life,” Ms. Eskelsen García said. “That includes good athletics and arts departments, too, I’ll bet you. So make that school the benchmark.”

Recognizing the increase in low-income students in California, Gov. Jerry Brown instituted a new funding formula two years ago for state dollars directed to public schools. Now, schools get a much higher proportion of per-pupil funding for students who are from low-income families, in foster care or learning English.

School administrators in districts that already have a high proportion of poor students say they have to think of many services that educators in wealthier districts do not.

An increasing number of school districts now also serve dinner to students. In Cleveland, where the vast majority of the school district’s 39,000 students are poor, Eric Gordon, chief executive of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, said that most schools there have regular programs to send food home with students and that the district has staff members who help homeless families find places to stay.

When he was a principal in a much wealthier district, Mr. Gordon said, he never had to worry about any of these issues. Now, he said, as more districts have to serve poor students, he worries there will not be enough taxpayer money to help everybody.

“The first-ring suburban communities around us are facing the impacts of poverty,” Mr. Gordon said. Now federal funding “has to be spread over more communities with more poverty.”

January 14, 2015

MPS School Board President Michael Bonds Op-Ed on Wisconsin Assembly “Accountability” Bill

Filed under: Legislation — millerlf @ 5:07 pm

Wisconsin Assembly changes to accountability law are a step backward

I don’t always agree with the Wisconsin Legislature on matters of public education, but Wisconsin got it right when it adopted the current state law promoting school accountability for all publically-funded students. The current law is thoughtful, fair and it lets parents and taxpayers make an apples-to-apples comparison of performance for publically-funded students, whether the students are in public, voucher or private schools. We’ve waited for this legislation for more than 20 years, since the first voucher schools were created in Milwaukee.

That’s why an accountability proposal just introduced in the Wisconsin Assembly, Assembly Bill 1, while well intended, is just plain wrong. Less than a year after a comprehensive school accountability law was enacted – and before it has even been put fully into practice – the Assembly wants to change it. This proposed change by the Wisconsin Assembly is a step backward. It provides less transparency, creates confusion, punishes public schools and their students and takes control away from locally elected school boards.

• Under the current accountability law, all publically-funded students take the same tests so taxpayers and parents can make a true comparison of results. It’s good common sense. Assembly Bill 1 would create a hodge-podge of tests schools could take, making it impossible for anyone to see if schools were truly effective and impracticable for parents to determine which schools are performing best.

• Schools working hard to improve wouldn’t receive assistance under Assembly Bill 1, they’d be punished, closed and taken over by privately run charter schools. MPS’ experience has been that structured intervention and additional supports help low-performing schools improve and we’re seeing that transformation in several of our schools including Franklin, Grant, Curtin, Carver and Gwen T. Jackson. There are also cross sector efforts underway now to improve outcomes for all students.
• Locally-elected and locally-accountable school boards know their schools and communities best. Assembly Bill 1 would remove local control by appointing a non-elected, statewide accountability board that would determine which schools stay open and which are closed and turned over to private companies to run.

I believe strongly in holding schools accountable when they fall short. Since the 2011-12 school year, the Milwaukee Board of School Directors has voted to close or terminate the contracts of 31 MPS schools. While never easy, each of these decisions was made in the best interest of students using comparable data to make decisions.

Just as importantly, MPS has also developed a plan to help those schools that struggle the most. MPS has identified 14 Commitment Schools. These are some of our lowest performing schools and they receive additional help and support to improve student achievement. In addition, all of our schools with the lowest ranking on the most recent state report card are receiving additional assistance.

Taxpayers and parents have the right to know how well publically-funded schools are performing. Assembly Bill 1 is a step backward and takes the wrong steps to improve student achievement.

Michael Bonds, Ph.D.
President, Milwaukee Board of School Directors

January 13, 2015

Senate Republicans introduce school accountability bill (SB 1)

Filed under: Legislation — millerlf @ 4:18 pm

By Erin Richards of the Journal Sentinel Jan. 13, 2015

Senate Republicans introduced a school accountability bill Tuesday that would put a new state panel in charge of working with school boards on improvement plans for chronically underperforming public schools.

The new bill outlines what appear to be more collaborative steps to improve chronically low-performing schools compared to a pending bill backed by Assembly Republicans that offers more prescriptive sanctions, such as converting failing public schools to charter schools after a period of years.

Both bills aim to make sure Wisconsin’s publicly funded K-12 schools are high quality and producing good outcomes for students. But the details of how to do that have become mired in politics — even within the Republican Party — as well as competing ideas about how to define and improve a “failing” institution.

Senate GOP leaders Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) and Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee) jointly released their version of the accountability bill Tuesday afternoon after meeting in caucus with party members.

The bill, SB1, would create a state board to oversee improvement plans for traditional public and public charter schools that earn the lowest-rating on school report cards for three consecutive years. It would allow that board, with approval of the state superintendent, to direct the school board to implement other interventions, such as a new instructional design, personnel changes or professional development programs for staff.

Voucher school oversight
A second new state board — housed at the Department of Administration but headed by the state superintendent — would review annual accountability reports for private voucher schools.

Voucher schools that earn the lowest rating on school report cards for three years in a row would be cut off from state funding for new students for three years.

Public schools and private schools that believe they are unjustly targeted as “failing” could appeal the designation to their respective state oversight boards.

The Senate bill would continue having all publicly funded schools take the same state standardized achievement test. Those results heavily influence the school report-card ratings used now for public schools.

Last session, lawmakers agreed to start including voucher schools in that report card system as well. That was a compromise move because lawmakers couldn’t agree on what the sanctions should be for schools that consistently rank low in the report cards.

Assembly bill
Those same hang-ups exist at the start of the 2015 session.

Assembly Republicans released their version of the bill last week, which is scheduled for a committee hearing Wednesday.

The Assembly’s bill would convert all failing public schools to independent charter schools after a set number of years, and would also offer private voucher schools to take a different state test for accountability purposes than public schools.

The Assembly bill also called for having a new state board headed by the state superintendent redesign the state report cards to use A-F rankings, instead of the five-tiered ranking system used now.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said Tuesday it was possible that differences between the GOP school bills in his house and the Senate would need to be worked out through the rarely used tool of a conference committee.

Vos said that he expected Gov. Scott Walker to stick to basic principles when discussing the competing proposals in his state of the state speech tonight and not endorse one or the other.”I don’t think he’s going to come out in favor of our plan or the Senate’s plan,” he said.
Journal Sentinel reporter Jason Stein contributed to this report from Madison.

January 11, 2015

Wisconsin AB 1, “Accountability Bill”: Statement from the Wisconsin Public Education Network

Filed under: Legislation — millerlf @ 8:45 am

High-water mark for school accountability is right now

The high water mark for school accountability is to have all publicly funded students—no matter what type of school they are in—taking the same test, under the same conditions, at roughly the same time. That is actually the current standard in Wisconsin. It was passed by the Legislature and signed into law just in early April last year. Despite reality, legislators in some corners of The Capitol are trying to muddy the waters by limiting transparency and comparability around what is being done with taxpayer dollars. They want to allow schools that receive publicly funded vouchers to take any number of different tests. It’s one thing to reinvent the wheel, but it’s a bit silly to reinvent it after only eight months. Many would even call it downright crazy if that new wheel would move you backward instead of forward.

Soon, because of the common sense bill passed into law last session, all schools that receive publicly funded students will have a common report card. For the first time, parents, taxpayers, and the public will have an apples-to-apples comparison to judge school performance. This was no nonsense, fundamental, good work for which legislators should be applauded.

Why undo it, then?

The sad reality is it took years for this to happen. In Milwaukee it took over two decades before the performance of all publicly funded students could be compared from school to school. Legislators and policy makers were in effect driving blind because they repeatedly failed to put into place a very basic system that would have allowed taxpayers to get a clear view of what was going on in schools.

So, why, after legislators finally got it right, do some want to put the blindfolds back on?

Those who support the expansion of voucher schools used to simply say that voucher schools were better than public schools even though they had no solid evidence to back such claims.

Now that voucher students have to take a common test and performance is less than what was advertised, those same proponents have changed their tune and argue that being better isn’t the issue. It’s good enough to simply be different, they claim with a straight face.

It’s hard to understand why those who support the free market ideology behind voucher schools would want to move backward to an era where it was more difficult to learn about educational performance. School choices should be based upon the best information available. The bottom line is that parents should have access to comparable report cards and test scores so that they can make educated decisions. The state already has an accountability system in place, one where, in essence, all schools have to lay their cards on the table at the same time.

Moving away from that to something that is less transparent, makes you to think that somebody, somewhere wants to stack the deck.

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