Money or Ideology?: Why Does the State Board of Education Overrule Districts?

money-40603_1280Sometimes the sun shines, and sometimes it rains.  I guess it is climate change??  It rained on St Lucie and Indian River’s school boards.  They had voted to reject three Somerset charter schools.  There were the usual complaints that the charters offered little new and also disrupted district desegregation efforts.  These new charters were proposed under the High Achieving Charter law that allows charters to locate in other counties if they have a charter school with at least two A’s and a B somewhere else.

School grades being school grades, high performing means little.  We all have schools that change from an ‘A’ to a ‘C’ depending upon how zone lines change.   Charters can maintain grades by strategic choice of location, students, and dismissal policies.

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Florida Gets an ‘F’ Again

FAILED1Which states get it right?  Not Florida.  It was one of eight states that received an overall grade of ‘F’ when its grades were averaged across the categories studied.   The Network for Public Education rated states based on six criteria.

For each category, I combined the percentages of A, B and C grades received across states.  I was surprised at the results.  Relatively few states (11) use test scores to punish students and teachers, but Florida is one of those that do.  You can see the combined percentages (think of them as passing scores) at the end of each of the criteria.

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Charter School Bubble to Burst?

hands-982121_1280Are charter schools an emotional response by inner city low income families to long standing state funding inequities?  A University of Virginia Law Review article  addresses concerns that school funding inequities in Black urban areas lead to a tolerance of unfettered growth in charter schools. 

The federal government support for charters also feeds the expansion without sufficient regulation.  The net result may be a bubble and crash much like the recent financial crisis.  What should be done to avoid a cataclysmic fall that could destroy communities?

Mother Jones summarizes the three practices that lead to serious mismanagement.  I add a summary of the status Florida’s legislation to address these concerns.

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Schools Reflect Our Values

directory-281476_1280Poverty, race, and educational opportunity are intertwined. In a report by the National Educational Policy Center, housing is added to the mix.  The authors explain the interaction between where we live and the opportunities available to us.

Divided communities have greater inequities in access to quality education and employment.  Perceptions of the quality of schools based on the neighborhood income level become the reality.  The more divided our communities, the greater the problems become.  What can be done to reduce the inequities?

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Making Informed Decisions About Charters: Apples are not oranges

fruit-424182_1280Comparisons between traditional public and charter schools have little meaning.  In an article entitled: Making School Choice Easier in today’s New York Times, charter school operators made concrete proposals to improve charter school achievement data.

Representatives of New Visions for Public Schools offer four ways to help parents make more informed decisions about the effectiveness of charter schools.  New Visions are charter schools located in New York.  They are non-profit.

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Arne Duncan Visits S. Pinellas Failure Factories

FAILED1 South Pinellas schools are a civil rights problem said Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education.  The Tampa Bay Times series ‘Failure Factories’ on the five schools seemingly abandoned by the district received national attention.  Secretary Duncan, his heir apparent, John King, U.S. Representative Kathy Castor met with parents and district officials yesterday.

Duncan said that the children were not failures, but the adults had failed the children.  They praised the efforts of the current superintendent to improve the schools, but much is yet to be done.  Duncan acknowledged that there were ‘tremendous unmet needs’ for family services and early childhood education.  A parent called for after school services and more experienced, quality teachers.

What happens next remains to be seen.  The Florida Department of Education is investigating whether or not their has been misuse of federal Title I funds designated for children from poor families.

Even though some progress has been made under the direction of the current superintendent,  the schools cannot solve the impact of their neglect by themselves.  The solution to the problems at the schools will require intensive community involvement.  Yet, only two school board members attended the event.  The Chair of the board said she was not invited. One former parent simply called the event a ‘press conference’.  Let’s hope it was more than that.

You can watch the video and read the Tampa Bay article here.

 

 

 

 

Buying Elections New Orleans Style. Is This the Future?

musicians-651293_1280 (1)Did you know that New Orleans was once the most integrated city in the U.S.?  Now it is one of the most racially and economically segregated cities and a school reform target.  After all, how can you not help struggling students whose  homes were ravaged by floods?  The Broad and Walton foundations are pouring in money.  They also are funding elections to make the reforms stick.  Is this the future of American education?

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The Prize: Who is in Charge of America’s Schools?

bowl-817780_1280I just finished reading Dale Russakoff’s book The Prize on the collapse of the Newark school reform effort.  Newark was supposed to be the  poster child for school reform.  Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook donated $100 million dollars.  Cory Booker, Newark’s mayor became a television celebrity.  Governor Christie was a staunch supporter until he wasn’t.  Cami Anderson was hired to lead the charge.  She left.

The book reads like an adventure story beginning with Booker and Christie trolling the streets of  Newark in the dead of night.

I thought The Prize would be about charter schools.  It really was not.   It is about…

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Charter Corruption and Chaos

money-40603_1280AlterNet published another story on the origins of school choice in Florida.  The story begins with Jeb Bush’s term as governor.  What  may have been intended to dramatically improve schools only turned out to be dramatic in the number of reports of corruption and chaos.  The article ties together the power brokers and the growth of for-profit charter schools.

It is a money and politics tale.   You can read it here: How Jeb Bush’s Florida Plan School ‘Choice’ Created Industry Corruption and Chaos.  You will find reports about the League of Women Vote’s study including data from Sue Legg and Pat Hall (LWV Hillsborough).