Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reforming education a lot harder than it looks

The average person might think: “Education isn't rocket science.” No, it's a good deal more difficult than that as it involves understanding and working with human beings. Billions of dollars and millions of hours from reformers have produced very little in the way of results because those reformers haven't actually spent much time in schools, learning about what makes learning different from other fields. “Unlike working educators, most leaders in the reform movement have never taught a five-period day, felt the joy of an unquantifiable classroom victory, lost instructional time to a standardized test, or been evaluated by a computer. And unlike the vulnerable students targeted by so much reform, most policy elites have not gone to school hungry, struggled to understand standard English, battled low expectations, or feared for their personal safety on the walk home.”

Sunday, October 19, 2014

PA Governor adopts educational plan that will hurt students

An “unelected, unaccountable entity charged with school oversight” abruptly canceled a state contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers “and demand new healthcare contributions from its employees.” The Philadelphia school system had lots of problems under Governor Corbett, but very few of those problems owed anything to the schools themselves, most of the problems had to do with deliberate malfeasance from the Corbett Administration. Having been a sailor, it was my experience and as my father was also a sailor, it was his experience too, that we never had to take money out of our own pockets to fulfill our mission. There were many instances where we were obliged to do so temporarily, but we always got reimbursed. Under Corbett, teachers have “to contribute thousands of dollars out of their own pockets for the most basic supplies.” And of course, the school bureaucracy under Corbett insists that a mandatory extra contribution to health care doesn't constitute a reduction in their paychecks.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How do charter schools make money if they're non-profits?

Naturally, no one wants to be paying for a for-profit school as it would then be far too easy to identify excessive charges and then, even if parents didn't make complaints about obvious money-making moves by the school, resentment would grow. The answer is shown in Pro-Publica's piece on profits and schools. Essentially, profits are collected at one remove, with the suppliers of books, furniture, cafeteria food, computers, even teacher training. There is, of course, no competitive bidding for anything as the supply line is set up before the school itself is even built.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Is education worth spending money on?

The fellow who replaced Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the House Majority Leader (Second in the House after the Speaker) has an, uh, interesting view of education and spending. "My hero Socrates trained in Plato on a rock. How much did that cost? So the greatest minds in history became the greatest minds in history without spending a lot of money." He has a lot of other strange views. Personally, I read I.F. Stone's “The Trial of Socrates” and was left considerably less than impressed with Socrates. I think he was far too abstract a thinker and could have been more down-to-earth and immediately practical. I had read Plato's “The Republic” in Junior High (Called Middle School these days) and recall having been pretty unimpressed by that as well. So no, I don't agree with Rep. David Brat as neither Plato nor Socrates count as “my hero.”

Monday, May 19, 2014

Charter Schools must obey civil rights laws

Good! “...the same federal civil rights laws that apply to other public schools apply equally to public charter schools.”
The piece also makes some snarky points about how long the problem has been around.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Backlash against high-stakes school testing

Seems parents and students and teachers are against putting too much reliance into testing (April 2013). Why are privatized schools (I use that term to distinguish the corporate schools from traditional private schools that are designed to draw in wealthier clients) so fond of testing? “They don’t want parents to measure a school on anything other than a number because they’re not offering anything other than a number.“ Privatized schools looking good, in theory anyway, because of the tests that students constantly take, not because students are turning out any more thoughtful or competent or skilled.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Students take exception to privatization

About 1,000 students of a half-a-dozen Newark, NJ, high schools walked out in April 2013 in response to Governor Chris Christie's plans to balance the state budget by taking money out of education.

[Apr 2013]

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Suspicious test scores

Michelle Rhee took a corporate-reform approach to getting better test scores and graduation rates from her students. It involved the firing of many teachers and the elimination of tenure. Unfortunately, it also meant that Rhee did not have any education professionals within her leadership circle, nor was anyone experienced at running urban school systems. It appears to have worked, but in April 2013, it turned out that in her first year as Schools Chancellor in Washington, DC, she knew that there was a considerable amount of cheating, erasures of student answers on tests and substitution of correct answers. Reports of this happening went back to November 2008. The ral problem was that the erasures “suggested widespread cheating by adults.”
Unfortunately, that's a predictable response to high-stakes testing that isn't difficult to manipulate. Could she have taken a better approach once cheating was discovered? Perhaps, but “a cheating scandal might well have implicated her own 'Produce or Else' approach to reform.“ Rhee strongly denied that she was pressuring principals to produce results regardless of whether students were actually learning more, but it appears that's exactly what was happening.
Has her system actually improved teacher retention, a key measure of job satisfaction? Actually, no. “For teachers, DCPS has become a revolving door. Half of all newly hired teachers (both rookies and experienced teachers) leave within two years; by contrast, the national average is said to be between three and five years.”
Sadly, “Rhee’s former deputy is in charge of public schools, and Rhee continues her efforts to persuade states and districts to adopt her approach to education reform–an approach, the evidence indicates, did little or nothing to improve the public schools in our nation’s capital.”

[April 2013]

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Proposal to reform school funding

In March 2013, Pennsylvania Representative James Roebuck, Jr., proposed to reform the way in which cyber and charter school were funded and how they were called to account for their performance. He estimated the PA school budget could save up to $365 million that way. Included is a chart that shows exactly what would be affected.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Pleading poverty, Philadelphia closes 23 schools

From Channel 6 (March 2013): “Officials contended the cash-strapped system couldn't afford to keep open the 27 buildings, more than 10 percent of the district's schools. Many of them are under-enrolled and in poor condition. But opponents said the move would irreparably damage dozens of neighborhoods and further fuel a student exodus from the district.”
The closures were defended as a response to declining enrollment and a consolidation of under-attended schools. But money was also a factor. Governor Corbett tries (April 2013) to get clever with the school budget so that he can pretend that privatization is necessary. But what's really causing PA to be short of money are Corbett's tax cuts. A study by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center showed that “corporate tax breaks that will continue to shift costs to individuals and local taxpayers, while failing to restore deep cuts to public schools, keep college affordable for middle-class students, or ensure working families can obtain basic health care.” Backgrounder from Truthout as to how private charter schools are sucking money out of the system and causing public schools to be starved for funds.

Video of reaction in front of the School District Building.
Media summary from PCAPS.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Testimony to the Philadelphia City Council on school closing moratorium

Black Radical Congress – Recognized that demographic changes meant some school closings and consolidations were inevitable, but proposed that charter schools should be closed first.

Laura C. Dijilo, PCAPS member - The state of Pennsylvania took over the schools 10 years ago because the schools were in debt. How has the state done? The schools are still in debt and underfunded and even more buildings are in disrepair.

Philadelphia National Writers Union – The PNWU endorses the PCAPS proposals.

UFPJ-DVN Education Committee – We recognize that the charter school movement is not driven by parents or students or even by educators, but by money-seeking corporations. This is an ineffective approach to education.

The Notebook – Summary of the testimony of four public school advocates.

[February 2013]

Friday, January 3, 2014

Privatized school vouchers – unpopular but persistent

Despite the unpopularity of vouchers for corporate private schools, we see a lot of voucher programs persist anyway, programs that take money out of the popular public education system and funnel money into an system that has no real accountability. Think Progress examines the cases of several millionaires and billionaires and their “school choice” front groups.

[May 2011]