May Comments 5/19/18

Build and Support Issues

Stephanie Hirsh from the Learning Institute on the importance of professional learning and team building to be centered on curriculum and instruction.

The value of multiple math pathways for students.  and Pam Burdman et al.

Can schools successfully encourage civic engagement? Democracy Prep charters say “You bet”. Robert Pondiscio reports on how Democracy Prep is emphasizing civic engagement. and see Some stats from the reports: Their civic education program led to a statistically significant 24 percentage point raw increase in voter turnout in 2016.These results are even more astonishing considering that their alumni are predominantly young (18-22), first-generation college students from low-income families of color–historically some of the least likely voters of any demographic group. 

For a more skeptical view see Larry Cuban’s take. While impressed by these voting stats he raises questions about Democracy Preps “no excuses” philosophy failing to teach democratic discourse.

A school in Arkansas is combining civics and history for eighth graders.

Marc Tucker reports on the status of the publishing industry. and the value of a process reform approach over individual programmatic solutions.

Are educational videos helping poor students?

A balanced look at privacy issues with technology in schools.



Trials and Tribulations of Charters, Vouchers, Virtual Schools, and the “Reform” Agenda

Jeff Bryant provides chapter and verse on how large-scale charter expansion decimates traditional public school funding even after taking into account money saved by educating less students.

In the same vein a new Brookings report finds that charter school growth puts fiscal pressure on traditional public schools.

Similarly, a report from In the Public Interest documents how charter schools drain enormous funds from local schools districts. Here is a summary of the report on how charter schools ruin local school district budgets.; Another comment on that and similar reports by Derek Black. Charter Schools Remove Tens of Millions in Funding from Three California Districts, While Severely Under-enrolling Students with Disabilities A quote from Black:

Yesterday, I posted on Helen Ladd’s path-breaking study of the cost of charter schools to local school districts in North Carolina.  She found an “average fiscal cost of more than $3,500 for each student enrolled in charter schools.”   Today brings more troubling factual findings out of California. In the Public Interest finds that “Oakland Unified loses $5,643 a year per charter school student while San Diego Unified loses $4,913 a year and East Side Unified loses $6,000 a year.”

Diane Ravitch reports on how the “privatization” mind-set, top down dictates, and Trump administration back-room deals on top of neglect have devastated Puerto Rico’s public schools.

John Thompson explains how “reformers” attempt to excuse the failure of educational reform.

Diane Ravitch quotes Robert Shireman of the Century Foundation on how conversions of for-profit schools to non-profit status are a sham.

Derek Johnson on how aggressive expansion of charter schools is harming traditional public education.

The National Educational Policy Center issues its sixth report on virtual schools/blended learning finding major deficiencies in performance and accountability.

Three articles on major problems with the highly touted Basis charter school chain in Arizona. Carol Burris finds few black and brown students and large scale dropouts from grades 7-12 inflating scores and graduation rates. Craig Harris finds inordinate profits and high living expenditures by the couple who own it. and Mercedes Schneider asks whether Basis charter schools are a pyramid scheme as they keep taking on new debt to fund their life-style.

Another example of massive attrition rates before graduation resulting in a reduced, rarified group—this time at Yes Prep. The kicker with this charter is that they require college acceptance to graduate and then tout a 100% college attendance of the few who are left.

Similarly, Diane Ravitch has a devastating article about the spurious claims of the darling of the media—Success Academy. and the media’s neglect and false narrative about the actual high performance of poor students at many public schools. According to Gary Rubinstein, the senior class at Success Academy’s Liberal Arts High School has 17 members. When they started in kindergarten, there were 73 students. By the end of eighth grade, there were 32 students. Four years later, there were 17, all of whom were admitted to college.Gary wrote recently that we can’t be sure of the real attrition rate, it might even be worse than stated above, because some of the original 73 might have been excluded and replaced; unlike real public schools, Success Academy does not admit new students after third grade.

Tom Ultican warns of the cabal trying to privatize and destroy public education in Oakland.

Peter Greene writes on how Spellings and Duncan Get It Wrong.

Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago which educates one out of 10 high-school students in the district has come under withering criticism for harsh discipline practices including refusing menstruating girls permission to leave the class for the bathroom in emergency situations.



Privatization and the Results of Defunding Public Education.

United States teachers are among the worst paid in the developed world.

Study shows teachers on average spend about $500 of their personal money for classroom supplies.

Linda Darling-Hammond on what the teacher strikes are about.

A guide to the corporations and groups lobbying to defund our schools who are hostile to striking teachers.

ALEC and its corporate sponsors plan to privatize and defund public education.

2 thoughts on “May Comments 5/19/18

  1. Paul Jackson

    Dear Bill,

    I would welcome your feedback on the following synopsis of an article/proposal I am writing.

    Career Technical Education Awareness in Elementary School: the Intervention Needed to Oppose Charter Schools

    I hold with those that argue Charter schools are a destructive, false bill of goods that have failed. But without more active, pro-public school stakeholders, I believe they may continue to take over public education.

    The problem of ‘the missing stakeholder” is partly that the low income citizens that make up half of public education typically vote in low numbers.. But I would argue that the problem is equally that – in its present form – public schools do not carry out vital purposes that would serve citizens, especially low income citizens; and that, therefore, potential public education stakeholders either a) sit out; or, b) choose charter schools due to a perceived lack of options.

    The controlling premise in public education – a view shared by both mainstream public school reformists and private charter school proponents – is that students need to go to college to get a decent paying job, with the added implication that this means a four year college.

    From this premise follows: a) the narrow and grueling, test-oriented regimen predominant in public education today; b) the marginalization of career pathways for ‘middle level’ jobs – also requiring post-secondary education – that Career Technical Education high schools can prepare students for; and c) the alienation and disengagement of many students and parents, for whom the harsh public school regimen and prospect of paying for a four year college are both alienating and unrealistic.

    An intervention: early CTE awareness. I propose systematically, exposing all students to the reality and idea of Career Technical Education career pathways at an early stage as follows. Starting in the first grade: introduce four short mini-units each year linking a grade-appropriate academic skill to a CTE career area; and have each unit culminate in a visit by the best and the brightest, poster-boy/girl, mentor-type CTE high school students to ‘demo’ the job application of the academic skill, and to talk about how high school CTE is the way they’ll prepare for postsecondary schooling and a job after high school.

    Benefits. Early introduction of CTE options would:
    introduce students and parents early to a range of jobs with good pay and dignity;
    introduce students to great career role models;
    promote the appealing and accessible gateway goal of the CTE high school versus the more abstract and problematic goal of ‘college;’
    engage students at an early age for all of the above reasons, thus working against the ‘academic performance drop-offs’ so characteristic of low income students;
    in so doing, convert a CTE high school program into a true jump off point, versus a remedial alternative to ‘college’ high school;
    and – again, for all the above reasons – engage low-income parents more on behalf of their children’s education, and, as a result, politically.

    CTE – an alternative to both the test-driven public education regime and to charter schools. CTE can engage a larger group of citizen stakeholders on behalf of funding for public education, and on behalf of schools repurposed to better serve all students. More parents will pound the table for public schools. But, further, this system can undercut charter schools by giving parents and students better educational and career alternatives to the hyper-test-prep-regimen of charter schools. (As a NYT piece on NYC’s Success Academy revealed, many parents are aware their children are wretched in the schools, but simply feel they have no other way to get their kids out of a low income background.) On the one hand, I imagine parents would drive resistance to charter schools and a narrow test regimen; on the other, I imagine that the CTE mentors – culled from the best in the CTE system – would themselves become something more than proponents of CTE, but would – in school or after – begin to influence the greater culture of cities, assuming leadership positions in other ways.

    Two related criticisms of this proposal are foreseeable. One is that this proposal will track low income students of color into bad jobs rather than giving them the chance to fulfill their potential and get better jobs through a four year college. The short answer is that the present system is failing the low income kids charter proponents profess to care about; and that this approach will get more students to engage and go on to the postsecondary work necessary to get the many ‘middle skill’ jobs with good pay and dignity.

    The second likely criticism is that this approach would be utilitarian – that by focusing on jobs, it would forsake other vital purposes of education – namely civic engagement and love of art and thought and culture. My brief reply would be that boosting CTE awareness would boost civics and love of learning in several ways: CTE role models could be tasked with extolling civics and learning as well as career; greater school engagement would ‘spill over’ into a greater receptivity and ability to engage with other subjects; and, on the teacher side, student engagement – and confidence in a job future – would allow teachers greater free range to teach engaging subjects whose bottom line was not simply preparing better for a test. but joy in learning.

    1. BillHonig Post author

      Paul, intriguing idea. Awareness and applying academic skills to career pathways might be helpful. There would be big problems in implementation. How about some demonstration schools or an elementary CTE network? Bill


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