Green Dot to the rescue?

Green Dot Public Schools, a successful charter school operator, will try to take over a Los Angeles high school known for racial violence, low test scores and a high drop-out rate. The Jewish Journal reports:

If allowed to run Jefferson as he does his other schools, (Steve) Barr would divide the campus into eight or nine schools. Teachers would lose tenure protection, but could not be fired without “just cause.” Teaching staff also would have a central role in planning curriculum and purchasing instructional materials. The staff would not belong to United Teachers Los Angeles, the powerful L.A. teachers union, but could instead join the independent union that represents faculty at Barr’s other schools. Teacher salaries would be 10 percent higher. Parents would be required to volunteer at the school. Staff currently at Jefferson, including the principal, would be invited to reapply for their jobs.

Barr has started five charter high schools in low-incme minority neighborhoods, but he’s never taken over an existing school to turn it into a charter. It will be enormously difficult to turn around a school this dysfunctional, assuming Green Dot gets the chance to try. It will work only if the new school can transfer students who are unwilling to obey the rules.

According to the LA Times, the teachers’ union president has vowed to block Green Dot and school board members are sniffy that Barr went first to teachers and parents, not to district officials.

Barr had to get the state board of education to extend the charter of his first school, Animo Inglewood Charter High, because the local school district refused. The school is ranked in the top 10 percent of comparable schools in the state, the top 30 percent compared to all schools.

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Comments

  1. It will work only if the new school can transfer students who are unwilling to obey the rules.

    I strongly suspect that almost any currently utterly unsuccessful school could dramatically improve if they were allowed to weed out the worst of their students. The question is where would you put these students and who would be willing to risk their life (quite possibly literally) teaching a whole classroom of them?

  2. Tom West wrote:

    I strongly suspect that almost any currently utterly unsuccessful school could dramatically improve if they were allowed to weed out the worst of their students.

    Ignoring (mostly) the implication that public education would be a much more successful enterprise with a better class of students, what would be wrong with using the method that’s used in district-based schools, pushing the worst students out?

  3. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Same thing about students… no matter how interactive and engaging the lessons are there will be students who just don’t want to learn. It’s not just to put these children in classrooms where they will disrupt others’ learning.

  4. I’ll be interested in seeing how they can convince the parents to get into the schools. Parental involvement is a cornerstone of most charter schools, and I believe an important component of success. However, these students are what they are strictly because their parents had no interest in getting involved in their schooling, so I’m not sure how this is going to work.

    Does anyone know a good way to keep up on this story? Does Green Dot have an information site?

  5. Grenn Dot Public Schools.

    With regard to parental involvement, it’s a sometime thing, dependent entirely on the whims of the teacher, principal and superintendant. With all the handwringing about a lack of parental involvement, there are plenty of parents who aren’t satisfied to sell brownies but are made to know that their involvement ends when a frown creases the brow of whatever professional it is who’s being addressed.

    SuperSub wrote:

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

    If the situation were that simple your glib example might be worthwhile but with boring regularity there are teachers who contrive to get the horse to drink pretty darned well.

    How, for instance, does your example account for this unlikely occurrance?

  6. Allen-
    I’m simply saying that there ARE students who cannot function in school due to behavioral or other problems. I’m not saying we should start chucking students out of school, but I do get sick of the “we can educate anyone no matter who they are” ra-ra sis-boom-bah crap that many seem to spout. There are students who should not be in any community setting, let alone students.

  7. If the situation were that simple your glib example might be worthwhile but with boring regularity there are teachers who contrive to get the horse to drink pretty darned well.

    These teachers are few and far between.

  8. Mr. Davis says:

    In Allen’s example, just a wee bit of the credit goes to the students as well.

    The question of why students must be compelled to sit in classrooms no matter how little they are being educated and why schools must be compelled to provide space for students no matter how much they are disrupting the education of others should be squarely faced.

    School should be about education, not killing time until some legally approved anniversary. No wonder some schools seem too much like day care.

  9. Ah, so “the teachers’ union president has vowed to block Green Dot and school board members are sniffy that Barr went first to teachers and parents”.

    Good to see these altruistic public servants focusing on the important points, not on trivial questions like “Would this benefit the kids?”

  10. SuperSub wrote:

    I’m simply saying that there ARE students who cannot function in school due to behavioral or other problems.

    Well, sure. But differentiating between the students who can’t function in school and the students who could but haven’t been given much of a reason toO isn’t necessarily easy even when it’s attempted. The public education system is ill-suited to doing that differentiating and usually doesn’t.

    I’m not saying we should start chucking students out of school

    That is the logical conclusion to be drawn from the observation that some kids cannot function in school. Since it’s already being done – the term I’m familiar with is “the dance of the turkeys” – it’s just a matter of determining circumstances and responsible parties. Who decides when to chuck a kid out and under what circumstances.

    But that’s getting away from what lit me up.

    The link I provided is a description of an exception to your “you can’t make them drink” rule and to the best on my ability to determine, no one gives a damn.

    You’d think that a bunch of kids with not just a hell of a lot going for them, coming out of nowhere to beat a well-funded effort by MIT college students might be worth some investigation. Heck, I’d expect that in pretty much any other profession a suprise like that would have had the principles bombarded with offers for book deals and on the rubber chicken circuit in no time.

    But these guys are teachers so the evidence that they’re exceptional means nothing. No sponsorship deals. No pictures on Wheaties boxes. No expensive “learn from the pros” workshops. Nothing. And no one thinks that such an utter disregard for excellence is worthy of comment.

    They go back to their schedule, their professional lives controlled by their seniority and however good they are, whatever they might be capable of, drifts off like a puff of smoke, unappreciated and unmourned.

    So, when you lead that horse to water keep in mind that your peers and your superiors don’t place a high enough value on what you do to bother differentiating between high and low quality practitioners and you’ll have a better idea why your students are difficult to motivate.

    Beeman wrote:

    These teachers are few and far between.

    How do you know?

    In a profession which places no value on the good and takes no measures to force out the bad, how can you tell how many are good and how many are bad?

  11. Mr. Davis says:

    How do you know?

    In a profession which places no value on the good and takes no measures to force out the bad, how can you tell how many are good and how many are bad?

    By the output. You are talking about why they are not as good as they could be, not how good they are. Why they aren’t as good as they could be has a lot to do with the existing system. That’s why the system needs a lot of change, especially as it constitutes a national security threat.

  12. No, I was just challanging Beeman to support his contention that there’s something intrinsic to the teaching profession, as practiced in public education, which makes good teachers “few and far between”.

    That there’s something wrong with a societal institution that places no value on a quality central to its ostensible mission, teacher quality, is difficult to honestly argue although there’s trainloads of specious arguments.

  13. No, I was just challanging Beeman to support his contention that there’s something intrinsic to the teaching profession, as practiced in public education, which makes good teachers “few and far between”.

    That there’s something wrong with a societal institution that places no value on a quality central to its ostensible mission, teacher quality, is difficult to honestly argue although there’s trainloads of specious arguments.

    You said it, ostensible mission of public education. Their real mission, their hidden agenda, is to instill obedience and conformity. That is true even for many self-described liberal and alternative schools.

    Yet a certain amount of true education and intellectuality remains. This could be just a case of the left hand fighting the right. It’s unlikely to be a classical conspiracy; more so one that arose by accident.

    1) The highly political nature of public schools, large institutions, and the teaching profession in general tends to suppress the good teachers. The best politicians / apparatchiks are the worst teachers, and vice versa.

    1A) The good teachers often make the ordinary and bad teachers look bad, and hence they gang up on the good teachers (instead of improving themselves).

    2) The good teachers work the hardest, often with no recognition (much less compensation) from their employers. Even if the good teachers run into no harrassment or persecution, they still burn out the quickest from their sheer workload.

    3) At college level, education fails to attract the most talented students. These typically choose private sector careers in science and engineering, or become post-secondary instructors.

    4) The cult of high-school sports diverts resources from education. Coaches and their gangs of thugs are elevated above real teachers and real students.

    5) The public school system discourages innovation, and that applies to both teachers and students. The true innovators – Collins, Gatto, Holt, Montessori, Neill – either were always on thr outside, were forced out of the public system, or left on their own.