Educate All Students, Support Public Education

April 28, 2015

Would Alan Borsuk send his grandchildren to a “No Excuses” school?

Filed under: Borsuk,Charter Schools,No-nonsence schools — millerlf @ 2:14 pm

In an op-ed last Sunday Alan Borsuk criticized a vote I took at a school board meeting on April 23. It concerned a proposed charter school that he described as a “no excuses” school. Actually in the world of education, these are called “no-nonsense” schools.

What Borsuk does not tell you is that there’s a huge debate around the country, most recently described in extensive articles in the New York Times (See blogs Parent Testimony on Abuse of “No-Nonsense” Charter Schools and “No-Nonsense” Charter School Model Intentionally Causes Students to Feel “Misery” ) and in an Atlantic magazine article from 12/2014 by the former Journal Sentinel reporter Sarah Carr, titled How Strict Is Too Strict.

Borsuk uses an unfortunate journalistic technique of paraphrasing board members critical of the proposal while quoting those in support. I wish he had given me due diligence by quoting my final comment: “We have Montessori, Language Immersion and IB for white and middle-class students, while low-income African American students get a code of conduct.”

Questions for Mr. Borsuk:
• Would you send your grandchildren to one of these schools?
• Is absolute obedience the objective of good education?
• Do you support the high suspension rates at these no nonsense schools?
• Why did you not explain to your readers that these schools often have high attrition rates, where students leaving the program are not replaced, making it appear as if graduation rates are exceptional?
• Why do the absolute obedience schools have such low special education enrollment?
• Are you aware of the high teacher turnover at these schools?
• Which “discipline matrix” do you support?
• Are you aware of the civil rights complaints registered at these absolute obedience schools in New Orleans?
• Eva Moskowitz will operate 43 “no-nonsense” Success Academy charter schools in New York next year. Are you aware of the debate, described in a number of articles in the New York Times in the past month? (Your readers should be informed about this high profile discussion that is being closely watched by education experts throughout the nation.)
• Does the school board not have a responsibility to put in place programs that protect all children and provide a rich curriculum for all children?

Over the six years that I have been on the school board, I have come to the conclusion that I will always ask myself, would I send my grandchildren to a program I am voting to establish?

I’d encourage Mr. Borsuk to ask the same question.

New Orleans Recovery School District a Different Reality Than the One Described by Rep. Dale Kooyenga and Sen. Alberta Darling

Filed under: Darling,Recovery District — millerlf @ 2:07 pm

New Orleans charter school model should not be adopted
Kristen Buras, Raynard Sanders, Karran Harper Royal

“New Opportunities for Milwaukee,” a policy proposal by Senator Alberta Darling and Representative Dale Kooyenga, has caused quite a stir in Wisconsin. It draws inspiration from the state-run Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans, the nation’s largest all-charter school district. Those of us in New Orleans, who have lived through and studied the past decade of education reform, do not feel inspired. We urge Wisconsin’s citizens to look closely at the facts in New Orleans before proceeding with any plan.

The “New Opportunities” proposal states that “the success of charter schools is apparent across the country.” The reality is that RSD-New Orleans charter schools are a dismal failure. Data indicating an upward trajectory in performance has been legislatively contrived or created by the Louisiana Department of Education’s manipulation. Not long after Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana state legislature raised the standard used to judge New Orleans’ traditional public schools as failing, justifying the takeover. It then reversed course and lowered the standard used to judge the city’s charter schools, the majority of which are rated C, D, and F. In fact, only 4 RSD schools were above the state average in 2014, the standard used to take over New Orleans public schools.

Further, the “New Opportunities” proposal asserts that the high school graduation rate in New Orleans was 54 percent before Katrina and 78 percent in 2013. Actually, the graduation rate in RSD-New Orleans is below 60 percent. The 78 percent figure is the result of averaging the high-performing schools under control of the Orleans Parish School Board, ones that were high performing prior to the charter experiment and have a graduation rate above 90 percent, with low-performing schools in RSD-New Orleans; high performing schools weigh more heavily now because the student population is smaller overall. It also has been discovered that several charter high schools in the RSD improperly coded students leaving the school, raising concerns about the validity of the graduation and dropout rates reported by the RSD.

In addition, charter schools in the RSD have a record of pushing students who require additional support and resources out of school. Some have suspension and expulsion rates that are ten times the national average. The situation became so dire that the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging that the city’s schools, most of them charters, had failed either to admit or appropriately serve 4,500 children with disabilities. As a part of a settlement decision a consent decree was announced early this year and an independent monitor will oversee charters for compliance. In light of such dynamics, it would be dangerous to allow unbridled autonomy for private operators, who are often more concerned about the financial bottom line than children’s rights to learn.

Finally, “New Opportunities” says that such proposals “will not cost any taxpayer, at any level of government, a single cent.” Based on actual experience in New Orleans, we have paid many costs—economic, political, and cultural. For example, when 7,500 veteran teachers and public school employees were fired en masse after Katrina, health insurance rates doubled and in some cases tripled for retirees. The state legislature had to provide funds to stabilize the blow. Most charter operators hired inexperienced, transient replacements provided by businesses such as Teach for America and opted not to participate in the state retirement system, thereby further weakening it.

The New Orleans model of privately managed charter schools and new teacher recruitment will not present Milwaukee’s children with opportunities. Rather, it will create new opportunities for profiteers to advance their own interests as they pursue public education dollars.

April 21, 2015

1.5 Million Missing Black Men

Filed under: General,Racism — millerlf @ 12:21 pm

In New York, almost 120,000 black men between the ages of 25 and 54 are missing from everyday life. In Chicago, 45,000 are, and more than 30,000 are missing in Philadelphia. Across the South — from North Charleston, S.C., through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi and up into Ferguson, Mo. — hundreds of thousands more are missing.

African-American men have long been more likely to be locked up and more likely to die young, but the scale of the combined toll is nonetheless jarring. It is a measure of the deep disparities that continue to afflict black men — disparities being debated after a recent spate of killings by the police — and the gender gap is itself a further cause of social ills, leaving many communities without enough men to be fathers and husbands.

To see the full article go to:

April 19, 2015

Dissection of the Latest Credo Study on Charter Schools

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 5:13 pm

The recent CREDO (Center for Research on Educational Outcomes) report comparing charter schools and traditional public schools has been described by charter proponents as deciding proof of charter superiority. Blogger Derek Black, with analysis from Bruce Baker, says not so fast.

Education Law Prof Blog: Are Charter Schools Finally Outperforming Traditional Public Schools?

Derek Black March 25, 2015

Probably not, but the news stories surround the most recent charter school study by the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) would have the public believe so. CREDO’s studies have been a center point in the debate over the efficacy of charter schools since 2009. Charter school advocates used the 2009 study to demonstrate that some charters (17% to be precise) were outperforming traditional public schools. Those advocates ignored the 37% that were under-performing in comparison to traditional public schools. Charter school skeptics hammered that point and backed it up with subsequent studies.

CREDO’s second report in 2013 was more equivocal than the first and moved in a direction to the liking of charter schools. Rather than focusing on raw performance, it sought to identify educational improvement, finding that charter schools in general were showing more growth than traditional public schools. Some argued that larger growth was potentially easier because charters were starting from a lower baseline. The changed frame of analysis also elicited criticism from both sides regarding the methodology of the study.

CREDO is now out with its 2015 report, and its equivocation is all but gone. The study finds that “urban charter schools in the aggregate provide significantly higher levels of annual growth in both math and reading compared to their TPS peers. Specifically, students enrolled in urban charter schools experience 0.055 standard deviations (s.d.’s) greater growth in math and 0.039 s.d.’s greater growth in reading per year than their matched peers in TPS. These results translate to urban charter students receiving the equivalent of roughly 40 days of additional learning per year in math and 28 additional days of learning per year in reading.”

This finding was met with applause by education reformers, charter school advocates, and the business community. It was met with keen interest by the media. It has been met largely with silence from those formerly critiquing charters (or they have been unable to capture headlines). Does this study and the silent reaction to it mean that charter schools have finally matured and are demonstrating superiority over traditional public schools? Is the debate, in effect, nearing resolution? Not so fast, says Bruce Baker. We still must compare apples to apples, and it is not clear that CREDO has done that.

Those seeking to demonstrate charter superiority have almost always compared apples to oranges. If the student demographics of charters differ from traditional public schools, raw achievement scores between the two cannot be accurately compared. Responding to this problem, newer studies, including CREDO’s, have attempted to account for differing student demographics.

But CREDO’s new study may have done both too much and too little in this regard. CREDO’s new study narrows the field further than every before, largely in the attempt to triangulate some area of advantage for charters. The new study does not compare charters and traditional public schools on the whole, but only urban charters to urban traditional public schools. That comparison is probably correct, but, of course, those are not the only charter schools in operation. Thus, at best, the study suggests that under certain circumstances, charters outperform traditional public schools.

Bruce Baker, however, says the new study still presents a distorted picture in regard to student demographics, even when narrowed to urban schools. The variables the study uses to “match” an urban public school to a charter for comparison “are especially problematic.” It is inaccurate to treat charters’ “poor kids” as equivalent to traditional public schools’ “poor kids.” And it is, likewise, inaccurate to assume that charters’ special education kids are the same as traditional public schools’ kids. In fact, there is a lot of variation within those two categories, and charters may very well have the most advantaged students within those otherwise narrow groups. Baker further explains:

Newark data are particularly revealing of these problems. Charters undersubscribe the poorest students and oversubscribe the less poor, but CREDO treats those kids as matched anyway…

Charters undersubscribe high need special education kids and oversubscribe mild learning disabled (as a share) but CREDO treats those kids as matched.

This creates a severe bias in favor of charters in Newark and in many other cities with similar sorting patters and high average poverty rates.

This perhaps provides partial explanation for why CREDO tends to find stronger charter effects in poor urban centers than, say in suburbs, where their matching measures – at least for income status – would potentially be more useful.

The point is that the virtual record comparison asserts that these kids are otherwise similar, and thus the gains are somehow attributable to “charter” schooling as a treatment. This assertion is deeply flawed at two levels. First, the as noted above the variables they are choosing for matching are nearly useless. They don’t necessarily identify similar kids at all. Nearly all kids fall below the income threshold they are using and thus they might label as “matched” (likely do in fact) a kid in deep poverty/homelessness, etc. in a district school with a kid marginally below the reduced lunch cut point in a charter. They might also label as “matched” a mild specific learning disability kid in a charter (since that’s all they have for disability) with a far more severely disabled kid in a district school (where district schools have disproportionate shares of those kids now because charters have siphoned some of the less needy spec ed kids).

The second level problem here is that the CREDO study doesn’t then account separately for who these kids attend school with – the peer effect. It conflates that effect with “school” effect, by omission.

Deep stuff. It is probably deeper than the average reporter cares to consider, which might explain some of the silence. But these distinctions are crucial in understanding the new CREDO report and suggest the charter school debate is far settled. The National Education Policy Center has commissioned a review of the CREDO study that will add further clarity to the debate. That review should be available later this spring.

Education Law Prof Blog
Derek Black
Derek W. Black is a Professor of Law at the University of South Carolina School of Law. His areas of expertise include education law and policy, constitutional law, civil rights, evidence, and torts. The focus of his current scholarship is the intersection of constitutional law and public education…
Author Profile →

The Bigotry of Voucher Schools

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 8:40 am

School vouchers in Milwaukee, religious freedom and discrimination

By Barbara Miner April 17, 2015 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

As the recent Indiana controversy has made clear, anti-gay bigotry is no longer publicly acceptable even when cloaked with rhetoric of religious freedom.

It’s a lesson that, sooner or later, Wisconsin will have to confront. But not because the state has a law similar to Indiana’s. Unfortunately, Wisconsin permits an even more disturbing practice. It not only allows respect for religious freedom to be used as a cover for discrimination, but also forces the taxpayer to pay for that discrimination.

Wisconsin’s taxpayer-funded bigotry, which includes but goes beyond homophobia, has been cleverly disguised as “school choice.” It’s complicated, so a bit of history is necessary.

In 1990, the Wisconsin legislature established a voucher program in Milwaukee under which public dollars paid the tuition at private schools. The program was billed as an experiment to improve academic achievement and was limited to a handful of schools. In order to be considered truly “private,” schools could have no more than 49% of students receiving a voucher. Religious schools were not allowed.

Over time, conservatives eliminated such restrictions as part of their vision of replacing public education with universal vouchers. Today, more than 26,000 Milwaukee students receive vouchers and 112 schools take part; it is the country’s largest and oldest urban voucher program. Test scores are no better than in public schools, so “school choice” has become the defining rationale.

Significantly, limits have been lifted on the percentage of voucher students in a school. As a result, every single student in a Milwaukee voucher school can receive a publicly funded voucher, yet the school is still defined as “private.” Last year, most of the schools enrolled predominantly voucher students; 27 schools were 100% voucher students.

With the growth of charter schools, the voucher program almost exclusively benefits religious schools, and some 89% of voucher students in the Milwaukee program attend a religious school.
Wisconsin also has a two-year-old statewide voucher program that only includes religious schools, and a four-year-old program in Racine where all but one school is religious-based.

Religion is a highly personal matter, and this country’s long-standing defense of religious liberty is a hallmark of our democracy. But the voucher program has distorted this all-important concept of religious freedom.

The problem is most clear when one looks at Wisconsin law that prohibits discrimination against students in public schools — a law that voucher schools can ignore.

Wisconsin has a long history of protecting students’ rights, in line with the 1848 state constitution that called for free public schools for children of all races and religious beliefs. Over time, rights have expanded and Wisconsin now prohibits discrimination in a range of areas, including disabilities, pregnancy, marital status, parental status, sex and sexual orientation.

In 1998, when religious schools were allowed to take part in Milwaukee’s voucher program, a controversy erupted. As part of the application to become a voucher school, the state Department of Public Instruction included a letter outlining students’ rights that were to be respected. The rights included not only nondiscrimination measures, but also constitutional protections of due process, equal protection and freedom of speech.

The religious schools vehemently disagreed with the DPI. They argued that as private institutions, they were exempt from such mandates.

The state Legislature forced DPI to agree that voucher schools merely had to sign a letter acknowledging that they had received a letter outlining the students’ rights. The letter specifically noted that such an acknowledgement was not an admission that the students’ rights applied to the voucher schools.

Unfortunately, the tensions involving religious liberty, voucher schools and public policy go beyond respect for students’ rights.

Many voucher schools adhere to religious teachings that homosexuality is wrong, sex outside of marriage is a sin and artificial birth control is contrary to the law of God. As religious voucher schools often point out, they do not separate their beliefs from their curriculum. Children are taught such views.

I attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through high school and came of age at a time when the church was focused more on social justice than on sex and sexuality. I understand the positive role the church can play. But I also understand that the Catholic Church is anything but a democracy.

As a woman and a citizen, it’s upsetting that my tax dollars are being used to promote discriminatory beliefs that violate not only my personal beliefs, but are also at odds with public policy.

Nor are we talking insignificant amounts of money. Since vouchers began in Wisconsin, more than $1.8 billion in public dollars has been given to private voucher schools. This year alone, the three voucher programs in Wisconsin will receive $209 million in taxpayer funding.

Conservatives have used the rhetoric of “choice” to mask the legislatively sanctioned discrimination within the voucher program. They have been equally skillful in corralling debate into whether voucher schools should take the same tests as public schools — an important but ultimately narrow discussion.

The fundamental question is why schools that are completely dependent on public tax dollars get to define themselves as private and play by vastly different rules than public schools.

History moves unevenly. For a range of reasons, these contradictions have not yet come to the fore in the debate on school vouchers in Wisconsin. But they will.

Barbara Miner is a Milwaukee-based journalist and the author of “Lessons from the Heartland; A Turbulent Half-Century of Public Education in an Iconic American City” (New York: New Press, 2013.)

Parent Testimony on Abuse of “No-Nonsense” Charter Schools

Filed under: Charter Schools,No-nonsence schools — millerlf @ 8:29 am

Below are comments by parents about their children’s treatment at Success Academy Charter Schools, a major charter chain in New York run by Eva Moskowitz.
While there are parents who support the program and claim their children’s success, shouldn’t we all take responsibility for everyone’s children? Or is narrow “consumerism” all that matters in American education?

New York Times April 18, 2015

• José M. Grajales
His son, 5, is in kindergarten at Success Academy Harlem 3 and his daughter, 8, is a second grader at the same school.

We started noticing that our son was coming home soaked in urine in September 2014. Our son was born with a congenital kidney reflux so we thought those accidents were related to this condition. We spoke with his urologist, who gave us a letter stating that our son should be allowed to use the bathroom. We provided the letter to Success Academy, but the incidents continued until recently. We think our son might be urinating himself because of limited bathroom breaks at Success. We have contacted the school on several occasions about this issue. Our son has no problems using the bathroom outside of school.

Our daughter, who has a learning disability, is in second grade at Success Academy. She receives services, like speech therapy, occupational therapy and additional help. Initially our daughter enjoyed going to school. However, after the first few weeks our daughter’s struggles became obvious. Her name was highlighted in a “red” section of the weekly class newsletter for math. She consistently falls into the “red” week after week, and that started to affect her emotional well-being. We placed her in play therapy outside of school because her self-esteem was suffering.

We feel strongly that our daughter can learn if she was placed in a nurturing and supportive environment where she can be challenged. Our daughter needs to be challenged, not in a punitive and public shaming way but with realistic goals and encouragement.

I feel that not all children are a good fit for Success Academy. For those who try and try and can never get out of the “red,” Success Academy is not for them, and parents of special needs children should be wary. We are exploring other options for our children, and we are hoping for better options for the next school year.

José M. Grajales, 40, is a lawyer.

• Maren H.
She has a son, 6, in kindergarten at Success Academy Upper West; her older son, 7, attended first grade there.

I have a kindergartner in a Success Academy school and a child I pulled out in first grade. My older son, who was diagnosed with A.D.H.D., had problems with inattention. In an atmosphere like Success Academy, where children are held to an extremely high standard of constant focus and zero tolerance for any lack of impulse control, my son struggled daily at the school. Children are reprimanded for not sitting with perfect posture or not remaining silent during all instruction. For a child with his diagnosis, these things are impossible. He was beginning to feel under constant attack by teachers.

We watched his self-esteem plummet as he would be reprimanded in front of the class for little things like not looking at students when they spoke in class or for touching his friend’s pencil on the desk beside him. Eventually, this led to him running out of the classroom regularly. My son was suspended roughly seven times over two months for these so-called “unsafe behaviors.”

Success Academy continued to suspend my son despite our pleas that he was just diagnosed with A.D.H.D. We begged for a little time to try to find the right medication and dosage that would allow him to participate normally. All we got in response was, “We hold all children to the same high standard.”

After so many incidences, we pulled him out of Success Academy and put him in our locally zoned public school, where he is doing extremely well. My younger son is still at Success Academy and is doing well. The zoned public school did not have room in its kindergarten class for him after the school year began.

We still believe that the basic philosophies behind Success Academy are admirable. But Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy seem to have zero understanding about how to handle children who might learn differently, or need a little extra patience and understanding.

Maren H., 34, is a psychotherapist and social worker.

• Jessica D.
Her son, 6, attended kindergarten and part of first grade at Success Academy Upper West.

I am a former parent of the Upper West Side Success Academy. I quickly took notice of the abuse in my son’s second year at Success Academy. The children are not permitted to say “hello” to friends in the hallways; they must ”track” the teacher, meaning all eyes on the teacher; and they are not permitted to use the bathroom until teachers are finished with their lessons. Sometimes my son would come home and tell me he had to hold it all day because the teacher was “busy.’’

On one occasion, I was called at home and told my son would receive an infraction for his mismatched socks. I got calls saying that I could only arrange his doctors’ appointments during off-school hours. The school sent my son home with stickers telling me when to put my son to bed.

Another time my son was late by a minute to “breakfast chess” and he had to sit alone in the cafeteria, where he cried. When I met with school administrators, I was told those are the rules of the school — if you’re a minute late you cannot play. There was no feeling that the school cared about my son’s emotional well-being. I pulled him out the next day and placed him in our local public school.

Success Academy does not have a loving environment. The teachers and the students are stressed; it’s a pressure cooker. My son comes home these days and tells me, “Thank you, mom. I love my new school. We have no more checks.” Success Academy is big with constant checks for behavior problems, even though my son has no learning or behavior issues. I truly feel sorry for the kids that don’t have a parent involved.

Jessica D., 39, works in the skin care industry.

Important Data on the New Orleans Recovery School District

Filed under: New Orleans,Recovery District — millerlf @ 7:52 am

Following is a link to a blog by Bruce Baker, a Rutgers Professor and blogger. It provides interesting data and graphs on the “success” of the New Orleans Recovery School District.  Go to the link: RSD graphs

April 15, 2015

Illinois Governor Suggests Bankruptcy for Chicago Public Schools

Filed under: General — millerlf @ 8:08 am

Rauner likes ‘bankruptcy’ to cure CPS financial woes
By Melissa Sanchez and Sarah Karp 4/15/15 Catalyst Chicago

To resolve Chicago Public Schools’ crippling financial problems, Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday suggested a polemic although not quite legal possibility: declare bankruptcy.

“The state has a crisis, the city has a crisis. I’m concerned that [CPS] is going to have to go bankrupt,” he said during a moderated discussion at a Chicago Public Education Fund luncheon. “Bankruptcy code exists to help the organization get out of financial trouble. There’s a reason for the bankruptcy code.”

Then he told the sympathetic audience – which minutes later gave him a standing ovation – that unions are partly to blame for why municipalities and school districts in Illinois can’t file for bankruptcy in order to renegotiate debt.

“Insiders in our system currently have made bankruptcy in government units illegal because some people never want to restructure contracts – contracts brought into place through insider deals,” said Rauner, who also advocated for right-to-work zones.

The governor’s comments were met with wide disapproval among city leaders and the Chicago Teachers Union – a rare instance of agreement between public figures that are often at odds.

Libby Langsdorf, a spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, assured that CPS is not looking into bankruptcy as a way to solve the $1.14 billion budget deficit it faces next year. Instead, she said, the mayor looks forward to discussing with Rauner issues such as statewide spending on education, and state subsidies to the Chicago teachers pension system. CPS is the only Illinois district that doesn’t get subsidies.

“Instead of proposing to solve the state’s fiscal crisis on the backs of local governments, he should be working to ensure that Chicago, the biggest economic driver in the state, gets back on sound footing,” Langsdorf said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis called it “irresponsible” for Rauner to even suggest bankruptcy. “Why would he bring this up and suggest it to CPS other than for it to be a way to get around our contract — and we’re in the middle of negotiations?” she asked.

Jackson Potter, also of the CTU, suggested raising taxes on the wealthy or the so-called LaSalle Street tax to generate revenue to help the state generate more revenue to fund schools. “Instead Rauner is putting us on a trajectory of a downward spiral, where it’s going to worry creditors about not getting their money back, make borrowing more expensive and exacerbate their financial crisis for people who are in debt.”

State would have pass bankruptcy law
Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, says the state Legislature would have to pass a law in order to allow for bankruptcies – an idea that some conservative lawmakers have recently brought up as a way to get out of public employee obligations. And last year the Illinois Municipal Association held a session on the issue called “Finance: Lessons from Detroit and Pension Cases” during its annual conference, the Better Government Association reported.

Even if bankruptcy were an option, Martire says there would be plenty of drawbacks for a school district like CPS: “There would be a huge loss of confidence in the school district and a mass exodus of qualified teachers and staff who do not want collective bargaining through bankruptcy court. And the district’s ability to [issue debt] would be severely limited,” he says. “It would not be a happy place to be.”

In 1979, CPS went virtually bankrupt after dipping into funds that should have been restricted for debt repayment. The Legislature responded by creating an oversight body that sold bonds to keep the system running and impose budget restrictions. Meanwhile, school staff suffered payless paydays and stiff budget cuts all around.

Few U.S. school districts have ever declared bankruptcy, says Michael Griffith, a school finance consultant with the Education Commission of the States. He says states have to adopt a federal bankruptcy law in order to allow that to happen. Then, a federal judge must determine if a specific government entity qualifies for bankruptcy.

If so, the federal judge becomes responsible for deciding whether the municipality or school district can get out of pension debt by lowering payments to retirees, break contracts or renegotiate collective bargaining agreements. “Lawmakers often don’t like this law because it gives power to a federal judge and takes away power from them,” Griffith says.

More common is that states have provisions that allow them to declare a financial emergency, but that only allows school districts to reopen collective bargaining agreements. Currently that’s not an issue in Chicago considering the teachers’ contract expires at the end of June.

Illinois law does allow the state to take over the financial decisions of school districts that are in trouble — and to provide them some financial assistance. Currently, Proviso in the western suburbs, North Chicago in the far northern suburbs and downstate East St. Louis have state financial oversight panels.

April 7, 2015

“No-Nonsense” Charter School Model Intentionally Causes Students to Feel “Misery”

Filed under: Charter Schools,No-nonsence schools — millerlf @ 6:28 pm

Strictly teaching to the test, 50% yearly teacher turnover, absence of arts and physical education, and high suspension rates define Success Academy charter schools.

Excerpts from the article:
“In an internal email that some former teachers said typified the attitude at some schools, one school leader said that students who were lagging should be made to feel “misery.”

Former staff members described students in third grade and above wetting themselves during practice tests, either because teachers did not allow them to go to the restroom, which Ms. Moskowitz disputed, or because the students themselves felt so much pressure that they did not want to lose time on the test.

The high-pressure atmosphere at Success leads to substantial teacher turnover, though the precise rate is unclear. According to the latest school report cards, in 2013-14 three Success schools had turnover rates above 50 percent, meaning more than half the teachers from the previous year did not stay.”

At Success Academy Charter Schools, High Scores and Polarizing Tactics

At most schools, if a child is flailing academically, it is treated as a private matter.

But at Success Academy Harlem 4, one boy’s struggles were there for all to see: On two colored charts in the hallway, where the students’ performance on weekly spelling and math quizzes was tracked, his name was at the bottom, in a red zone denoting that he was below grade level.

The boy, a fourth grader, had been in the red zone for months. His teacher, Kristin Jones, 23, had held meetings with his mother, where the teacher spread out all the weekly class newsletters from the year, in which the charts were reproduced. If he studied, he could pass the spelling quizzes, Ms. Jones said — he just was not trying. But the boy got increasingly frustrated, and some weeks Ms. Jones had to stop herself from looking over his shoulder during the quizzes so she would not become upset by his continued mistakes.

Then, one Friday in December, she peeked at his paper, and a smile spread over her face. After he handed in his quiz, she announced to the class that he had gotten a 90. “I might start crying right now,” she said, only half-joking. “I’ve got to call your mom.”

In its devotion to accountability, Success Academy, New York City’s polarizing charter school network, may have no peer.

Though it serves primarily poor, mostly black and Hispanic students, Success is a testing dynamo, outscoring schools in many wealthy suburbs, let alone their urban counterparts. In New York City last year, 29 percent of public school students passed the state reading tests, and 35 percent passed the math tests. At Success schools, the corresponding percentages were 64 and 94 percent.

Those kinds of numbers have helped Success, led by Eva S. Moskowitz, expand to become the city’s largest network of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated. By next year Ms. Moskowitz, known for her attention-grabbing rallies and skirmishes with the teachers’ union and Mayor Bill de Blasio, will have 43 schools; a proposal by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo could bring her closer to her goal of 100. That would give Success more schools than Buffalo, the state’s second-largest district.

In a rare look inside the network, including visits to several schools and interviews with dozens of current and former employees, The New York Times chronicled a system driven by the relentless pursuit of better results, one that can be exhilarating for teachers and students who keep up with its demands and agonizing for those who do not.

Rules are explicit and expectations precise. Students must sit with hands clasped and eyes following the speaker; reading passages must be neatly annotated with a main idea.

Incentives are offered, such as candy for good behavior, and Nerf guns and basketballs for high scores on practice tests. For those deemed not trying hard enough, there is “effort academy,” which is part detention, part study hall.

For teachers, who are not unionized and usually just out of college, 11-hour days are the norm, and each one is under constant monitoring, by principals who make frequent visits, and by databases that record quiz scores. Teachers who do well can expect quick promotions, with some becoming principals while still in their 20s. Teachers who struggle can expect coaching or, if that does not help, possible demotion.

Rachel Tuchman, 25, said that during her three years as a teacher at Success, she had friends who worked in the fields of finance and consulting, and she went to work earlier and stayed later than they did.

“You’re being treated like you’re on the trading floor at Goldman while you’re teaching in Harlem,” said Ms. Tuchman, who is now in her first year at Yale Law School.

She also said that she thought the workload was necessary to achieve the results that Success has, adding, “It takes a very specific type of person who can handle the pressure.”

One consequence of the competitive environment is a high rate of teacher turnover. Some teachers who left said that the job was too stressful. Others said they left because they disagreed with the network’s approach, particularly when they believed it was taken to extremes. In an internal email that some former teachers said typified the attitude at some schools, one school leader said that students who were lagging should be made to feel “misery.” Suspension rates at Success schools, compared with public schools, are higher.

Former staff members described students in third grade and above wetting themselves during practice tests, either because teachers did not allow them to go to the restroom, which Ms. Moskowitz disputed, or because the students themselves felt so much pressure that they did not want to lose time on the test.

Jasmine Araujo, 25, who joined Success through the Teach for America program, quit after half a year as a special-education teacher at Success Academy Harlem 3. She now teaches at a charter school in New Orleans. “I would cry almost every night thinking about the way I was treating these kids, and thinking that that’s not the kind of teacher I wanted to be,” Ms. Araujo said.

By the Numbers
Ms. Moskowitz and a number of her teachers saw the network’s exacting approach in a different way: as putting their students on the same college track as children in wealthier neighborhoods who had better schools and money for extra help. Success students are generally barred from the city’s best elementary schools because they do not live in those schools’ zones.

“For affluent parents who are concerned about the test scores, they have an exit strategy — their exit strategy is to hire a private tutor,” Ms. Moskowitz said.

No one criticizes those parents, but “when we support our students, we get criticized,” she said.

“And I would argue that it’s not fair that only the kids who can hire private tutors should do well.”

At Success, everyone is measured by whether their students are doing well.

After every networkwide quiz, students’ scores are entered into the Success computer system, which then ranks each teacher. The purpose of this, teachers and principals said, is to identify high performers and to see what practices they are using, and conversely, to determine which teachers might need better practices.

“We’ve never had a conversation where, like, ‘You are 32nd in the network,’ ” said Lisa Sun, the 26-year-old principal at Success Academy Harlem North Central, a middle school. Rather, she said, she discusses with the teacher which skills the students are lacking, as reflected by the data. “ ‘And it’s not because of them, it’s because of you. We have to talk about what you need to fix to make it better.’ ”

A teacher whose students are performing poorly on assessments, or who cannot maintain discipline, might be moved midyear to another grade, an assistant teacher’s position or tutoring outside the classroom. At the beginning of the year, each class is named after the college that its lead teacher graduated from and the students’ expected year of college graduation. Dana Adnopoz’s homeroom at Success Academy Harlem North Central is Dartmouth 2026. Ms. Jones and her co-teacher have Hunter-Siena 2027.

But because teachers frequently leave or move, one teacher who taught at Success Academy Harlem 3 from 2010 to 2012 and left because she viewed it as overly strict recalled that in the spring of her second year, only a few of the classes in the school were still being led by the teacher whose college they were named after.

This teacher, like some other former Success teachers, did not want to be named criticizing the network. These former teachers said they feared hurting their future job prospects by disparaging a former employer or by being identified as critics of charter schools.

Dawn to Dusk
Each school day, Kristin Jones takes a 5:30 a.m. ferry from Staten Island, where she lives with her mother and two younger siblings, to Manhattan. In the winter, the sun is not yet up when she walks into school at 6:40 a.m.

Growing up, Ms. Jones always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She would tape loose-leaf paper to the mirror on her dresser to turn it into a makeshift blackboard and have her cousin and younger brother pretend to be her students.

Beginning teachers at Success are paid comparably with those in city public schools though instead of a pension, they receive contributions to a retirement account. Unlike public-school teachers, who often have to use their own money for basics like photocopies, Ms. Jones and her colleagues do not worry about supplies. The closets teem with notebooks, folders, pencils and pens. Each middle school student receives an iPad. Success Academy schools are also rich in the kind of extracurricular activities that have increasingly been cut from public schools, such as art, music, chess, theater, dance, basketball and swimming.

Success Academy supplements the public money it receives with money raised from private donors. In its 2013 fiscal year, the most recent for which fund-raising figures are publicly available, it received nearly $72 million in public funds and $22 million in donations.

Because so many administrative functions at Success schools are handled by the organization, principals have a lot of time to observe teachers. When William Loskoch, Ms. Jones’s principal, visited her classroom one day in December, he frequently stopped her co-teacher, Sarah Vistocco, 24, who had started at the network in May, to redirect a discussion or ask her to reinforce the rules.

When a student was struggling to come up with an adjective to describe the protagonists of two myths the class had read and Ms. Vistocco moved on, Mr. Loskoch, 34, stopped her and went back to the girl to try to draw her out.

When the students were sitting on the floor and he noticed that they were not sitting properly, he interrupted the lesson and said, “Ms. Vistocco, can you reset your carpet expectations?”

Success has stringent rules about behavior, down to how students are supposed to sit in the classroom: their backs straight, and their feet on the floor if they are in a chair or legs crossed if they are sitting on the floor. The rationale is that good posture and not fidgeting make it easier to pay attention. Some teachers who had orderly classrooms and a record of good student performance said, after their first year, their school leaders allowed them to bend the rules somewhat, such as not requiring students to clasp their hands as long as their hands were still.

“We believe that structure and consistency leads to better outcomes,” Ms. Moskowitz said. The network’s rules, she said, were consistent with expectations of students throughout most of the history of American education.

One doesn’t just get to go to Dartmouth or Yale – it requires hard work, discipline, a strong work ethic, and, yes, even good test scores.

“Maybe some people prefer chaos,” she added. “We don’t.”

Indeed, watching the students at Success Academy Harlem 4 walk to lunch, the scene was anything but chaotic. In their blue and orange uniforms — the girls wear jumpers, and the boys shirts and ties — they walked silently in two lines, starting and stopping at the teacher’s command. If so many children walking in formation was reminiscent of the von Trapp children at the beginning of “The Sound of Music,” the orderliness also meant that no time was wasted.

Likewise, inside Ms. Jones’s classroom, the atmosphere was calm, and she was demanding.

When the students were writing summaries of myths, she scolded the class: “I don’t want to continue seeing names of characters that start with lowercase letters. It’s an indicator of low effort.”

But when she was pleased with a student — as when the boy scored well on his spelling quiz — she radiated pride.

Asked whether she thought the students who were in the red zone would be demoralized, Ms. Jones said, “I’m sure they’re not happy about it.”

“But they’re very resilient,” she added. “And then, as soon as they get a great grade, they’re praised for it,” and, she said, they can see the difference that their increased effort made.

“They don’t want to stay there,” she said. “They want to improve.”

Carrots and Sticks
In 2005, Ms. Moskowitz, then a city councilwoman, ran for Manhattan borough president and lost — in part because of opposition from the teachers’ union, the United Federation of Teachers, which was enraged by a series of hearings she held in the City Council that were critical of work rules embedded in the union’s contract.

After the election, she was recruited by a pair of hedge fund managers who were interested in setting up a charter school, and she opened the network’s first, the Harlem Success Academy, in 2006. In subsequent years she opened more schools, first in Harlem and then in other neighborhoods in the city, and now has a total of 9,000 students in schools in every borough but Staten Island.

The Bloomberg administration gave her free space in public schools, often angering parents and teachers in the schools that had to share buildings with Success. Last year, after Mr. de Blasio briefly blocked three Success schools from public space and threatened to charge the network rent, Mr. Cuomo pushed through a law guaranteeing all new or expanding charter schools in the city free space or money to find their own.

Ms. Moskowitz has used her high test scores to argue that she should be allowed to open more schools, and an effort by Mr. Cuomo to raise the limit on the number of charter schools in the state could make it easier for her to do so.

At any given time, multiple carrots and sticks are used in the quest to make sure every student does well on the standardized tests. This system goes into overdrive in late January, as the annual exams, which begin this year on April 14, approach.

Success did not allow a reporter to observe test preparations, but teachers and students described a regimen that can sometimes be grueling.

To prepare for the reading tests, students spend up to 90 minutes each day working on “Close Reading Mastery” exercises, consisting of passages followed by multiple-choice questions. The last two Saturdays before the exams, students are required to go to school for practice tests.

Students who do well on practice tests can win prizes, such as remote-controlled cars, arts and crafts kits, and board games. Former teachers said that they were instructed to keep the prizes displayed in the front of their classroom to keep students motivated.

Students who are judged to not be trying hard enough are assigned to “effort academy.” While they redo their work, their classmates are getting a reward — like playing dodge ball against the teachers, throwing pies in the face of the principal or running through the hallways while the students in the lower grades cheer.

On the Friday before test preparations began, a calendar counting down the days to the test hung on the wall in Yale 2025, a sixth-grade classroom at Success Academy Harlem North West. The page for Monday was already displayed; in large type, it said: “53 days left.”

Carolyn Farnham, 24, the teacher, asked her students how they felt about the start of test preparations.

“It has the potential to be both really, really dull and really, really stressful,” she said to her students, adding, “That’s certainly not what I want.”

Some students responded that they did not mind because they had done well on the tests in the past. But several said they disliked it.

“I know that it’s here to help us,” one girl, Maliha, said. “But sometimes when people don’t get the best score, they seem to feel, like, really down on themselves. And when effort academy and detention and stuff like that is introduced,” she said, “one gets — me personally — really angry and upset.”

A boy raised his hand.

“I always get a high three or a low three or sometimes a four,” said the boy, Erick. (A three is considered passing, and a four is the highest score.) “What I don’t like is I have to go to school on Saturdays, so I feel like I don’t get rest, and I get a lot of stress in my neck because I got to go like this all the time,” he said, hunching forward like he was looking at a test paper.

Another girl, Ruqayyah, agreed that test preparations caused anxiety. But “on the other hand, there’s prizes,” she said, “which are really cool and motivate us to do our best.”

“I hope also you want to do your best for you,” Ms. Farnham said, “not just for prizes.”

The network’s critics — including the teachers’ union, which sees Success as taking money and space from public schools — say the network’s high scores are a mirage created, in part, by inordinate test preparation.

The network’s oldest students are still in high school, so it is difficult to gauge the long-term benefits of their education. Halley Potter, a fellow at the Century Foundation, a progressive policy organization, and the co-author of two books about charter schools, said that network’s test scores were impressive, but that the conclusions that could be drawn from them were limited.

“Success Academy’s strong test scores tell us that they have a strong model for producing good test scores,” Ms. Potter said, adding that there could be lessons in Success’s practices for schools that are trying to improve their scores.

She noted that Success schools tend to have fewer nonnative English speakers and special-education students than public schools; those groups tend to score lower on tests. Ms. Potter also said that the network has made trade-offs, including not offering foreign languages until eighth grade, in order to devote more time to math, English and science, the only subjects in which all elementary and middle school students take state tests.

Teachers and principals at Success said that they prepare their students so intensely for the tests because of the opportunities that high scores can present, such as invitations to top public middle or high schools, or scholarships for private schools.

Two documentaries, “Waiting for Superman” and “The Lottery,” have captured the desperation of parents trying to get their children into Success through the annual lotteries it holds; this year, the network said, it received more than 22,000 applications for 2,688 seats.

Shakeya Matthew’s sons attended Public School 165, on West 109th Street, before getting into Success Academy Harlem 4 this year. Ms. Matthew, 33, said that her younger son had struggled last year in kindergarten and that his teacher seemed overwhelmed. Now, as a Success first grader, he is reading at a second-grade level. She said that she is in more frequent contact with her sons’ teachers now than when her sons were in the public school. Success teachers will call or send her a text during the day or in the evening with news about how one of her sons did on a test or with other updates.

“It seems like they definitely put forth more effort and go an extra mile,” Ms. Matthew said.

Walking Away
The high-pressure atmosphere at Success leads to substantial teacher turnover, though the precise rate is unclear. According to the latest school report cards, in 2013-14 three Success schools had turnover rates above 50 percent, meaning more than half the teachers from the previous year did not stay.

But Success officials said that these figures were inflated by the number of teachers who move from one Success school to another, or to nonteaching positions within the network. According to its own numbers, attrition from the network from June 2013 to June 2014 was 17 percent. By comparison, attrition from the city’s public school system in 2013-14 was 6.1 percent, according to the Education Department.

Still, current and former employees said departures were common.

Ariadna Phillips-Santos, 34, taught kindergarten and first and second grades at Success Academy Harlem 5 from 2010 until 2012. Having worked in public schools, she was impressed by the academic rigor and the plentiful supplies. But she was raising a young son on her own, and juggling his care with her long work hours was almost impossible, she said. Ms. Phillips-Santos, who is now a dean at a public elementary and middle school in the Bronx, said she recalled asking her Success principal one day if she could leave at 4:55 p.m. — after the students had been dismissed — because her son’s day care had called saying that he had a fever and was vomiting, and being told, “It’s not 5 o’clock yet.”

Ms. Moskowitz said that Success was accommodating to working parents. She said that Success allowed some teachers and even some principals to work part time and that the network offers a month of paid maternity and paternity leave.

Most of the former teachers interviewed, however, said that they left not because of the workload, but because they disagreed with Success’s approach, which they found punitive.

One teacher complained that she was expected to announce all of her students’ scores on practice tests, by asking those who had scored a four to stand up, followed by those with a three and then those with a two. The teacher and her colleagues persuaded their supervisors not to make students with a score of one stand up, but those students were still left conspicuously sitting down, she said.

At one point, her leadership resident — what the network calls assistant principals — criticized her for not responding strongly enough when a student made a mistake. The leadership resident told her that she should have taken the student’s paper and ripped it up in front of her. Students were not supposed to go to the restroom during practice tests, she said, and she heard a leader from another school praise the dedication of a child who had wet his pants rather than take a break.

“I dreaded going into work,” the teacher, who now teaches in a public school, said.

Other former staff members also described students having wet themselves, in some cases during practice tests. Two former staff members who worked at Success Academy Harlem West, a middle school, in the 2013-14 school year, said that they recalled having to go to the supply closet to get extra underwear and sweatpants, which were always on hand, for students who had wet themselves.

Ms. Moskowitz said that, to mimic the environment of the actual test, when students are not supposed to go to the restroom except for an emergency, Success has all students go to the restroom immediately before practice tests. But students are still allowed to go during tests, she said. She acknowledged that there were sometimes accidents, but attributed them to the challenges of sharing space in public school buildings, which meant the restrooms were sometimes several floors away.

“We have plenty of kids who don’t always prepare adequately,” Ms. Moskowitz said, adding that “very occasionally there are accidents, and we get that it’s uncomfortable for the student.”

“It’s very emotional,” she said. “Teachers get emotional about it.”
Suspension Rates
Several former teachers and staff members said that they had also been uncomfortable with Success’s suspension rates.

At Success Academy Harlem 1, as the original school is now called, 23 percent of the 896 students were suspended for at least one day in 2012-13, the last year for which the state has data. At Public School 149, a school in the same building, 3 percent of students were suspended during that same period. Statewide, the average suspension rate is 4 percent. (A spokeswoman for Success said that the suspension rate at Success Academy Harlem 1 has since declined to 14 percent, and that several of the newer schools had rates below 10 percent.)

Students who frequently got in trouble sometimes left the network, former staff members said, because their parents got frustrated with the repeated suspensions or with being called in constantly to sit with their children at school.

Ms. Moskowitz said that the question of what was an appropriate number of suspensions was a complicated one, but that the suspension rate in public schools should not be regarded as “the gold standard.” She said that even very young children could do things that required an intervention, such as bringing razor blades to school or cursing at teachers.

“Often the suspensions are really to get the parents and the school to be on the same team, that there’s a serious issue,” she said. “If we don’t intervene, when they’re 13, that’s going to be a bigger problem,” she said.

The network’s critics say that its performance is skewed by the departure of its most difficult students. In a visit last month to a public school where 4 percent of students passed last year’s math tests, and that shares a building with a Success school where 96 percent of the students passed, the city’s schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, said, “We would like to be at that percentage, but we keep all our kids from the day they walk into the building.”

Success students who leave after fourth grade are not replaced because, Ms. Moskowitz said, new students entering at that point would be too far behind their classmates. But even if all those students stayed and continued to do poorly, Success schools would still significantly outperform their neighboring schools on tests.

Dahlia Graham, a teacher who came to Success Academy Harlem 1 in 2009, said that in the public school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, where she previously taught, there was no clear discipline system. If a student hit another student, he might be removed from class briefly, but then would return, still angry, and disrupt the class again. She said it was a relief when she got to Success, where she said hitting resulted in suspension.

“It made my life so much easier,” Ms. Graham said.

As for the teachers who said they did not like the environment, Ms. Moskowitz said: “Most of the people who leave are a little angry, like they don’t like their work and they don’t seem happy teaching, and we really can’t have people who don’t love it.”

A Demanding Culture
On April 1, 2012, a leadership resident at Success Academy Harlem 2, Lauren Jonas, sent an email to her fourth-grade teachers.

The email, provided by a former staff member, said that the results on a recent, three-day practice test were “not what we had hoped for.”

“You must demand every single minute,” Ms. Jonas wrote. “You must have higher behavioral and academic expectations than ever before.” Every letter was capitalized.

Nine to 12 students had failed to use the test-taking strategies they had been taught, known as the “plan of attack,” Ms. Jonas wrote.

“We can NOT let up on them,” she continued. “Any scholar who is not using the plan of attack will go to effort academy, have their parent called, and will miss electives. This is serious business, and there has to be misery felt for the kids who are not doing what is expected of them.”

At Ms. Jonas’s school, 64 percent of the teachers the year she wrote that email were not teaching there the next year, according to state figures. Researchers have linked high teacher turnover to lower performance by students on tests, but that is not the case at Success. At Success Academy Harlem 2 last year, 91 percent of students passed the state math tests, up from 76 percent the previous year. At Public School 30, which shares the building with Success Academy Harlem 2, 16 percent of students passed.

Ms. Jonas is now principal of one of the network’s newest schools, Success Academy Harlem North West, a middle school.

When the 2012 email was read to her recently, Ms. Jonas cringed and said that she did not remember writing it. She said that she did not want students to be miserable and described her words as “poorly chosen.”

“I should be certainly more careful in how I’m communicating and how others might misinterpret the meaning behind it,” she said.

But Ms. Moskowitz defended the wording of Ms. Jonas’s email, saying that a reporter was reading too much into it.

“We use that terminology sometimes, meaning, you know, ‘Kids, you got to get it right the first time, and we’re not playing,’ ” she said.

“That is part of our culture — not having kids getting away with just not trying,” she continued. “Everybody’s working too hard. Parents are sacrificing to get up early. Teachers are working really hard. Simply not trying is not part of our culture.”

April 4, 2015

Georgia Also Seeing Attempt to Create a Failed “Recovery School District”

Filed under: Darling,Recovery District — millerlf @ 3:46 pm

Opinion: New Orleans takeover is a model — of what not to do with Georgia schools

J. Celeste Lay is an associate professor of political science at Tulane University. She studies American politics and public policy. Her recent work focuses on the politics of education policy. She can be reached at

By J. Celeste Lay
As Georgians consider adopting a state-run district for “failing” schools, a variety of people have tried to convince voters that they should make this move toward a New Orleans market-based education model. According to those who were actively involved in the post-Katrina takeover of public schools in New Orleans, all is now well, in fact better than ever, in New Orleans schools.

Last week, the former superintendent of the Recovery School District of Louisiana, Paul Vallas, touted its unmitigated success in The Atlanta Journal Constitution Get Schooled blog.

He wrote, “The RSD is better serving the education needs of underprivileged, minority children there than perhaps at any time in history. Parents now have unprecedented choices for their children’s education. Any child in New Orleans can apply to any RSD school and the schools must accept all students until all the seats are filled.”

New Orleans’s charter school experiment is built on the notion that the invisible hand of the free market, made manifest in “unprecedented” parental choice, will improve the quality of public schools through competition. Once the state takes over, public funds are then free to flow to private charter management organizations to run the schools. Parents will choose only the best schools for their children, forcing low-performing schools to get better or close. In New Orleans, however, the invisible hand appears to be attached to the arm of manipulation and deception.

In the same week as Vallas’ editorial, Tulane’s Education Research Alliance (of which I am not affiliated) published a study that undermines his claims about parental choice and the accessibility of charter schools in New Orleans. This study shows that only one-third of randomly selected principals responded to competition by making substantive changes to academics or operations. Instead, these principals admitted they focused on creating niche programs (57%), “glossifying” their schools through marketing campaigns (83%) and screening out undesirable students (33%). Several schools that were supposed to “accept all students” admitted to selectively admitting students. School leaders matter-of-factly stated they use multiple methods to target certain types of families.

This report is far from the only evidence of how and for whom the market works. The city and state boards of education recently settled with Southern Poverty Law Center in a suit alleging children with disabilities were underserved and illegally disciplined in charter schools.

Charters regularly ignored students’ IEPs and pushed disabled students into schools that could not serve their needs. Several charter schools have been linked to ethics scandals, including nepotism and embezzlement. Similarly, many charters have been involved in cheating scandals related to standardized test scores, something about which those in Atlanta are very familiar.

Like those working in the city’s public schools, advocates of a state-run school district that consists primarily of charter schools undoubtedly believe this will improve schools and help kids. However, voters should not ignore that many people profit handsomely in a system of privately-managed schools.

Like other businesses, schools operating within market models must also turn a profit. The principal at my nearby charter school makes over $300,000 per year, a 246 percent increase from her salary before the school was chartered. For-profit management companies charge schools 15-20 percent of school revenue. Taxpayer dollars go into hefty administrator salaries and corporate profits instead of reducing class sizes, upgrading facilities, or recruiting and maintaining high-quality teachers.

One could get around all of these problems, perhaps, if the students’ outcomes were significantly improved. However, the RSD-NO continues to post scores on state exams that are well below the state average.

The average ACT score of the RSD-NO’s class of 2014 was 15.7 – far lower than the minimum entrance requirements at LSU and other public universities. Reform advocates tout growth in these scores, but such growth is neither entirely linear nor significant.

Leslie Jacobs, a chief architect of the New Orleans reforms, responded to the Tulane report by calling for greater regulation to offset the “human nature of some to find ways to game the system.” Government regulation is, of course, antithetical to a free market in education and such “red tape” is often the basis on which reforms are built. Such calls are also disingenuous. The Louisiana Supreme Court recently ruled that the New Orleans Inspector General does not have jurisdiction over the Orleans Parish School Board despite the fact that its funding comes from city taxpayers.
Education reform in New Orleans ought to be a model for others. The city’s experience, however, provides more of a model of what not to do than anything else.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at