Several recent stories are highlighting the fall in support for charter schools in the USA.
Most significant is the call at the 2016 national convention of the leading civil rights group, the NAACP, for a moratorium on charter school expansion.
The resolution called for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools at least until such time as:
(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools
(2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system
(3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and
(4) Charter schools cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.
But following the November 2016 Presidential election, the NAACP was concerned that Trump’s agenda to expand the privatization of public education would put the promise of a quality education for all at risk. The Board of Directors then expanded the work of a Task Force they had created to examine charter schools to include protection of quality public education for all inner-city children and renamed it the Task Force on Quality Education.
The Task Force framed their report around five critical recommendations for regulating charter schools and strengthening the public education system.
Other key findings of the Task Force are worth highlighting:
“Charter schools were created with more flexibility because they were expected to innovate and infuse new ideas and creativity into the traditional public school system. However, this aspect of the promise never materialized.”
“Charter schools are publicly funded, but they are privately operated under a written contract (or charter) with a state, school district or other authorizers depending on the state.”
“With the expansion of charter schools and their concentration in low-income communities, concerns have been raised within the African American community about the quality, accessibility and accountability of some charters, as well as their broader effects on the funding and management of school districts that serve most students of color.”
“For some, charter schools provide the answer to persistently failing traditional public schools in their community. To others, charter schools drain their community of limited resources and harm their children because many cannot attend the charter schools in their own neighborhood.”
“There were pros and cons on charters versus traditional schools in every hearing. The Task Force heard testimony that accused charter schools of “cherry-picking” students, counseling out the difficult students, manipulating funds related to average daily attendance once students were no longer in attendance, and re-segregating the public school system. Conversely, charter school advocates criticized the traditional school system for its poor record in educating students.”
“In every hearing, many people agreed that the current education system fails too many children because of the lack of investment in people, policies and programs that support high quality educational opportunities.”
“Furthermore, while high quality, accountable and accessible charters can contribute to educational opportunity, by themselves, even the best charters are not a substitute for more stable, adequate and equitable investments in public education in the communities that serve our children.”
~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ
Source: NAACP Task Force on Quality Education Hearing Report, July 2017.
Research conducted by three independent research institutions looked into online charter schools, and their findings were released in October 2015.
The press release, with links to the full report, is here.
Report findings conclude that:
“…students of online charter schools had significantly weaker academic performance in math and reading, compared with their counterparts in conventional schools.”
Referring specifically to the question of whether the schools had helped students from low socio-economic backgrounds and/or those from minority groups, the report states that:
“This pattern of weaker growth remained consistent across racial-ethnic subpopulations and students in poverty.”
Mathematica’s analysis found:
• Student–driven, independent study is the dominant mode of learning in online charter schools, with 33 percent of online charter schools offering only self-paced instruction
• Online charter schools typically provide students with less live teacher contact time in a week than students in conventional schools have in a day
• Maintaining student engagement in this environment of limited student-teacher interaction is considered the greatest challenge by far, identified by online charter school principals nearly three times as often as any other challenge
• Online charter schools place significant expectations on parents, perhaps to compensate for limited student-teacher interaction, with 43, 56, and 78 percent of online charters at the high school, middle, and elementary grade levels, respectively, expecting parents to actively participate in student instruction
The Mathematica report concludes:
“Challenges in maintaining student engagement are inherent in online instruction, and they are exacerbated by high student teacher ratios and minimal student-teacher contact time, which the data reveal are typical of online charter schools nationwide. These findings suggest reason for concern about whether the sector is likely to be effective in promoting student achievement.”
CREDO (Stanford University)’s report concluded that:
“While findings vary for each student, the results in CREDO’s report show that the majority of online charter students had far weaker academic growth in both math and reading compared to their traditional public school peers. To conceptualize this shortfall, it would equate to a student losing 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math, based on a 180-day school year.”
In other words, most students lost the equivalent of just under half a year’s learning in reading and made absolutely no progress in maths at all during an entire school year.
The research was funded by The Walton Foundation, which has funded a huge drive for reform. Even so, they couldn’t find much of a positive spin to put on the findings, concluding only that the research is valuable as:
“[k]nowing the facts helps parents, educators, policymakers, and funders make smarter, more informed decisions that benefit children.”
I do hope policymakers proposing the Communities of Online Learning (COOLs) in New Zealand have read the reports thoroughly and are indeed using this information to make better and more informed decisions. Sadly, at this stage, we have no evidence that this is the case.
You will find the press release and linked full reports here.
~ Dianne Khan, SOSNZ
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Charter schools are privately run, publicly funded, and irregularly regulated.
John Oliver explores why they aren’t at all like pizzerias.
NZ, don’t say you haven’t been warned. We’re already seeing some of this here, and we only have NINE!
If you don’t follow charter school goings on worldwide (and for your sanity, I kind of want to suggest you don’t), you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s just the odd blip here and there. But, to be honest, it’s more like a volley of blips coming thick and fast. In fact, if blips were locusts, we’d have a plague on our hands.
Take just this week’s revelations, for example…
Nga Parirau Matauranga Trust (NZ)
Waipareira Trust (NZ)
The E Tipu E Rea Trust (NZ)
Academy Transformation Trust (England)
NET Academies Trust (England)
Paradigm Trust (England)
Gulen/Harmony Charter Schools (USA)
Michigan study (USA)
Ohio Department of Education invoiced (USA)
Cabot Learning Federation (England)
Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (England)
Oh I could go on… this is but a drop in the ocean… but you get the idea.
The charter schools movement is not about education – it’s about privatisation and diversion of funds. As always, I ask you to follow the evidence and follow the money.
Featured Image courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Taxpayers fund large wages and lavish perks of academy school chiefs , The Guardian, Published online Sunday 24 July 2016 00.05 BST, retrieved 6.59pm NZ 25/7/16
Trust given $500,000 charter school contract without going to tender, NZ Herald, published online 10:43 AM Monday Jul 25, 2016, retrieved 9.18pm 25/7/16
Are charter schools making the grade? – The Nation, TV3, Saturday 23 Jul 2016 10:34 am, retrieved 9.38pm 25/7/16
Charter school a waste of public money – PPTA, Radio NZ, published 7:19 pm on 28 January 2016, retrieved 9.31pm 25/7/16
Parents at Bath Community Academy say school has failed their children and failed them, Bath Chronicle, July 23, 2016, retrieved 9.59pm 25/7/16
Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘donation’ is not charitable (literally NOT a charity) and involves, yet again, someone with the most money using that wealth to influence the path of education with no say from the parents of those students who will be on the receiving end of yet more experimental reforms.
Whatever happened to democracy, I wonder?
First – my sincerest congratulations on the birth of your baby girl. My son (now sleeping in my arms and making typing a bit difficult) was born just over a year ago, so I know quite well the wonder and fatigue of those first few weeks. I hope you and your wife have gotten some sleep since you’ve been home, and if you haven’t – don’t worry, it’ll get better soon.
When you get a chance to come up for air from your new life with little Max, I have another letter for you to read. (I say “another” because, if you’ve not yet seen it, I wrote you this letter a few weeks ago.)
Mark, without question, you said many lovely things in your open letter to your daughter. I know that you – like all parents – truly want this world to be a better place…
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“Twelve parents from Bronzeville [Chicago, USA] and allies from communities across Chicago launch a hunger strike in front of Dyett High School to call out the injustice suffered at the hands of CPS and the appointed Board of Education and to demand the adoption of the Global Leadership and Green Technology plan for Dyett.
Stall tactics and patronage politics from CPS have driven everyday people to use their bodies to stand in the way of further injustice. Instead of honoring their commitment to the process they outlined, CPS and the new education chair for Chicago’s City Council, Ald. Will Burns, have subverted the rules to “grease the rails” for an underperforming contract operator to acquire Dyett High School.
The sabotage of and fight for Dyett has raged since CPS decided to convert a highly-successful middle school to a high school over a 3-month period in 1999.
Horrified by the inability of the first graduating senior class in 2003 to experience college prep or advanced placement classes or a full-time librarian; community members began to invest in the school through the local school council to infuse critical programs and neighborhood partnerships into the building.
The fruits of that labor yielded the highest increase in students attending post-secondary institutions in 2008, and the highest decrease in out-ofschool suspensions and arrests in 2009.
Despite steady significant gains, the Mayoral-appointed Board of Education members voted to phase-out the school in 2012; and the mass erosion of investment to prepare those students for success. Galvanized by this injustice and emboldened by their record of success, parents and concerned residents began to work with educational experts within Chicago and around the country to develop an academic plan based on the community wishes.
Through a series of focus groups, town hall meetings, and extensive consultation with community and educational institutions, the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology academic plan was developed. Some of the same experts who have developed Level 1 high schools in Chicago led the design team that created this plan in direct consultation with the community over a 4-year period.
Neither of the competing proposals for Dyett come close to this level of community engagement or expertise. “We are willing to starve ourselves to bring justice to our children and our community!”
– Jeanette Taylor-Ramann
Show your support for the hunger strikers by joining the Thunderclap.
There are many good and great teachers, but even among them, Rafe Esquith is regarded as one of the standouts.
Rafe runs has done amazing work for decades, bringing Shakespeare and other literary greats to mainly minority students from low socio-economic backgrounds in LA. They visit places like Harvard to set their sights high, they watch and perform plays, they take educational visits. He feeds them snacks to keep them going. He gets them music tuition and instruments, too, largely through private donations from his many supporters.
Rafe’s work running The Hobart Shakespeareans has brought a list accolades as long as your arm, including National Medal of the Arts. a Compassion in Action Award from the Dalai Lama, and an MBE from the Queen. He was given the Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award and Disney’s National Outstanding Teacher of the Year award. There are documentaries about him, and he is written about in books about pedagogy. You get the idea.
In short, he is a great teacher.
And now Rafe is in “teacher jail”. He’s been there four months already.
In Los Angeles, the School District has what has been termed “teacher jail” for teachers under investigation. teachers report to the District’s offices and sit out the working day there, in some sort of odd house arrest. This is before anything has been proven and often with no criminal charges laid. Sometimes the charges are minor, and there are reports that the jails are sometimes used to silence teachers who oppose reforms too loudly.
Back to Rafe. His ‘crime’ was to joke that if The Hobart Shakespeareans didn’t get enough funds they would have to perform that year’s play naked. It seems that the joke passed and none of the students took it seriously or were concerned, but an observing teacher told management, and management told the district, and from then on it was the subject of an investigation. Not one parent or student has complained.
In fact quite the opposite:
The LA Times reports that “[t]he teachers union has criticized these so-called teacher jails, saying that instructors typically aren’t informed of the charges against them and that they are barred from their classrooms for far too long.”
It seems to me to be a heartbreaking state of affairs when such an inspired educator is taken out of his classroom for months on end for a throw away remark. Perhaps he should have been more prudent? But even if you think that’s the case, a reminder would have surely been enough?
The District has now widened its investigation into The Hobart Shakespeareans’ use of funds. It all seems rather reminiscent of The Crucible, where one person shouts witch and suddenly there’s a cacophony of accusations.
Of course, accusations must be investigated. But months and months sitting in a “teacher jail” seems a rather heavy handed approach when no charges at all have been laid. Meanwhile, Esquith’s students graduated without him and this year’s plays were cancelled.
As Rafe’s lawyer noted, it seems to be a case of “no good deed goes unpunished”.
What on earth is happening to teaching? There’s a wave of almost unbelievable practices appearing in classrooms. This is the latest jaw-dropper and, truly, I am stunned:
“Last year, my school contracted with the Center for Transformational Training or CT3 to train teachers using an approach called No Nonsense Nurturing.
I wore a bug in my ear. I didn’t have a mouthpiece. Meanwhile an official No Nonsense Nurturer, along with the school’s first year assistant principal and first year behavior intervention coach, controlled me remotely from the corner of the room where they shared a walkie talkie. (Source)
Where to begin?
The teacher is forbidden to speak in whole sentences.
The teacher must narrate what is happening in the room: ‘Noel is is finishing question 3. Marjorie is sitting silently. Alfredo is on page 6.’
The teacher must speak in a monotone voice.
The teacher must stand on both legs and not favour one over the other.
The teacher, it seems, mustn’t teach but must manage, and do it in the most robotic way possible.
It sounds as though there’s no room for joy, no room for praise, no room for individualisation. No room for the human, personal connections that are vital to a healthy learning environment. Just a teacher with an earpiece being directed from the back of the room by three people selling a product:
But the student, a sixth grader with some impulsivity issues and whose trust I’d spent months working to gain, was excited and spoke out of turn again.
*Tell him he has a detention,* my earpiece commanded. At which point the boy stood up and pointed to the back of the room, where the three classroom *coaches* huddled around a walkie talkie.
*Miss: don’t listen to them! You be you. Talk to me! I’m a person! Be a person, Miss. Be you!*”
Teachers, when you look back ten, fifteen or twenty years, did you ever imagine it could ever come to this?
And yet it has.
New Zealand teachers please don’t be complacent and think this is just the Americans, we wouldn’t ever do this. We are not immune to madcap and ill-thought-out education reforms, nor are we immune to the lure of the chance to make a dollar or two from selling snake oil. This will especially be a danger once the TPPA is signed and free trade overrides education policy.
KIPP charter school chain, who sell this method, have their beady eye on NZ and have been here to visit business groups and the Minister…
Like it or not, one way or another, US education
reforms deforms seem to eventually find their way to Aotearoa, no matter how far away they seem at the start.
Unless you want an earpiece, three coaches and a complete castration of your teaching skills, you must actively resist.
Kia kaha, teachers. Stay strong.
If you are still unsure why so many parents, students and educators are up in arms about education reforms, watch this clip from a new documentary, Education Inc.
The story “is told through the eyes of parent and filmmaker, Brian Malone, as he travels cross-country in search of the answers and sources behind the privatizing of American public education, and what it means for his kids.”
It looks at the links between the many factions pushing the reform agenda – who’s behind the reforms, and why?
As ever, it transpires that the key to answering this is to follow the money…
“For free-market reformers, private investors and large education corporations, this controversy spells opportunity in turning public schools over to private interests.
Education, Inc. examines the free-market and for-profit interests that have been quietly and systematically privatizing America’s public education system under the banner of “school choice.”
Malone’s doco paints a clear picture of the profit and politics agenda that’s sweeping through US education, right under people’s noses, and is a sage warning to New Zealand.<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/131231293″>Education Inc Cindy vs School Board</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user4369602″>Fast Forward Films, LLC</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Forewarned is forearmed, NZ.
For more information, see edincmovie.com
What I see is kids taught by “drill and kill” methods – GroupThink at its worst.
Detailed academic research into the methods employed by Core Knowledge concluded:
Our analyses did show that students in Core Knowledge schools perform significantly better than their comparison school counterparts on the Core Knowledge Achievement subtests.
This is not surprising, as the students in Core Knowledge schools were taught the Core Knowledge content, whereas students in comparison schools were not.
In other words, the method teaches the children to pass tests – and specifically Core Knowledge’s own tests. Is that learning? Are these students getting real-world transferable skills?
Watch from 5 mins 45 seconds onwards and tell me:
Is this the kind of school you want for your child?
Not in my worst Kafkaesque or Orwellian nightmares would I ever allow a child of mine into a class where this was the norm.
NATIONAL EVALUATION OF CORE KNOWLEDGE SEQUENCE IMPLEMENTATION – Final Report, Sam Stringfield, Amanda Datnow, Geoffrey Borman, & Laura Rachuba Johns Hopkins Unive rsity Report No. 49 December 2000
She says she wants all kids to succeed.
But she also says they need to feel misery if they do not rise to her nearly impossible expectations.
What kind of success is that?”
The New York Times is reporting the latest in a long line of morally dubious education reformer ideas – taking children from low socio-economic backgrounds into full time boarding school, the logic being that if poverty has such an impact on students and the student’s family is poor, then the solution is to take the child out of their family environment.
The NY Times reports that Carl Paladino “envisions a charter boarding school in Buffalo where students as young as first or second grade would be assured proper meals, uniforms, after-school tutoring and activities.”
Why, I would ask, can those things not be provided in the current system? Why are they dangled as a carrot that can only be had if you give your child into a boarding school system? Imagine being a parent wanting the best for your child hearing that your option is no help or hand over your child. Repulsive.
The idea is supported by Tanika Shedrick, a former charter school dean who, of course, wants to open one of the schools. Possible motives for that interest might be summed up in this quote from the NY Times:
[Shendrick] estimates the per-student cost at $20,000 to $25,000 per year, to be paid for with public funding and fundraising.
New York’s traditional charter school allocation is about $12,000 per student.
Interestingly, research done on this model, undertaken by the National Bureau of Economic Research, outlines the potential gains students make but has no mention of the human cost. The report notes that “SEED schools have an extended school day, provide extensive after-school tutoring for student who need support…” and goes on to note that “[w]hether or not the total benefits of attending SEED outweigh the costs can be known [only] with the passage of time“.
So, on one hand we have state schools being closed early due to lack of funds, and on the other hand we have proposals such as this, despite no clear indications of success, despite huge costs, and with no research on the impact on the students or their families.
It is also striking that money can be found to fund private charter schools, but not fund state schools fairly and properly in the first place.
Yes poverty has an effect on educational outcomes – a big effect – but we have to ask why anyone would think that, rather than dealing with issues of poverty and the underlying system that creates it, or even funding state schools properly, it is preferable to remove children from their families.
– Dianne Khan
Public Boarding School _ the Way to Solve Educational Ills? – New York Times (Firewalled – non-firewalled version at Trib Live, link below)
Pearson executives work hard to justify the company’s actions and frame their motives as some sort of kindness – almost a humanitarian effort. The trouble is, more and more people are convinced they are in it only for the money.
Pearson’s tagline “Always Learning” has been co-opted by those unhappy with its reach, to say “Always Earning” – understandable when the company is taking over everything from text books, to tests, to teacher certification and now owning its own schools. Its tentacles go far and wide, like a leviathan.
Yesterday SOSNZ took part in a Twitterstorm focused on Pearson Plc’s dubious behaviour around education. The protest was timed to coincide with Pearson’s AGM in London, and I was honoured to represent NZ alongside the UK and USA is spreading the word about the company’s behaviour.
At the AGM, Pearson executives had to face questions about the company’s behaviour in promoting and running for-profit schools in some of the poorest places on earth, where the daily rate to attend can be as much as half of a family’s income. As if charging such a high rate of such poor people was not bad enough, the lessons are on tablets and must be read word-for-word by the teacher at a pace set by the app not the teacher (tough if you have a question or need to pause for any good reason). All this to classrooms crammed with 60-200 children.
A joint letter from National Union of Teachers (NUT), Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and Global Justice Now, delivered to the Pearson CEO John Fallon at the AGM, read:
“From fuelling the obsessive testing regimes that are the backbone of the “test and punish” efforts in the global north, to supporting the predatory, “low-fee” for-profit private schools in the global south, Pearson’s brand has become synonymous with profiteering and the destruction of public education.”
The USA’s voice was also heard:
“We fight this kind of profit making to get kids a good education and fight for governments which gives students a high quality education.”
said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who had flown to London to attend the AGM and be heard.
As well as pushing privatised schooling, there have been many and repeated concerns about the role of Pearson’s in promoting high stakes testing, notably in the USA. Concerns have centred around the quality of the tests, the secrecy around them, the fact that markers are found via Craigslist and need have no educational training, and the scandal of Pearson monitoring students’ online activity for mention of the tests,
It’s shocked many to discover Pearson are not beyond tracking down a student and reporting them to the school authorities to deal with – all for Tweeting about a test. The fact that they misrepresented the student’s actions by getting the timing and the content of the Tweet wrong is of huge concern. A multinational company chasing down one student all based on incorrect information. Big Brother would be proud.
Regarding Pearson’s infiltration of all things education, Schools Week UK reports that ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said
“School curricula should not be patented and charged for. Tests should not distort what is taught and how it is assessed.
“Unfortunately, as the profit motive embeds itself in education systems around the world, these fundamental principles come under ever greater threat leading to greater inequality and exclusion for the most disadvantaged children and young people.”
Indeed. When the education ship is being steered by those concerned mainly with profit, it is seriously off course and in danger of sinking, taking our children’s education with it.
Sources and further reading:
Everybody hates Pearson – Fortune
Sydney Smoot, a U.S. fourth grader, shared her concerns on testing in schools with members of the Hernando County School Board at their regular meeting on March 17, 2015. She explained all that is wrong with the system she and others have been forced into, and she does it well.
Watch her speak truth to power…
Well done, Sydney – you are an inspiration.
There are many reasons teachers fight standardised testing: they are not a good use of learning time, they lead to teaching to the test, results are not always reliable, and they cost a fortune.
But even beyond that, the craziness of the whole standardised testing system can be no better explained than by Bob Braun’s latest blog post about the Pearson company’s dubious behaviour.
Bob considers Pearson’s insistence that in monitoring students’ online activity it is working only in the interests of test security (i.e. to prevent cheating), and he shares this with us. But is that the full picture, asks Bob?
“Here is what the State of New Jersey and Pearson agreed encompassed the idea of security and its possible breach–it’s codified in the testing manual developed by the state and sent out to all the districts:
“Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication.””
Let me run that by you again… students are not even allowed to talk about a test afterwards. To anyone.
“How did the test go, dear?”
“I can’t tell you, mum, or I’ll have Pearson contacting the Department of Education to send the principal down here”
“But did it go okay, dear?”
“I can neither confirm nor deny the test went okay, mum, please stop asking”
“Do you think you passed?”
“MUM! Are you trying to get me suspended? … I’m taking the fifth.”
Read more over at Bob Braun’s Ledger.
Kiwis, thank your lucky stars we do not have this madness here … and please help us keep it that way by supporting teachers,unions and fighting the monstrosity that is the TPPA.