Stanford charter elementary will close

A Stanford-run charter elementary school will close in June. Citing poor academic performance and behavior issues, Ravenswood trustees voted 3-1 to deny a one- or two-year extension for the nearly four-year-old East Palo Alto Academy Elementary, which has more than 200 students. (I wrote about the school’s problems here and here.) The Stanford-run high school was offered a charter till 2012 or till another sponsor takes over.  The local high school district, Sequoia Union, already has said no.

More time wouldn’t help the elementary, said Superintendent Maria De La Vega.

It was a “stunning rebuke” to Stanford’s education school, reports the Palo Alto Weekly.

Stanford’s heavy hitters — including the high-profile Professor Linda Darling-Hammond, who headed President Obama’s education transition team — were kept waiting for hours and not asked to speak.

Trustees had a financial incentive to close East Palo Alto Academy Elementary, the Weekly notes. Ravenswood’s budget problems will be eased significantly by the return of Stanford New Schools’ 200 elementary students.

Fish-barrel-shooter Greg Forster prints a Whitney Tilson e-mail:

Linda Darling-Hammond (along with Ravitch, Meier, and Kozol) is among the best known of your typical ed school, loosey-goosey, left-wing, politically correct, ivory tower, don’t-confuse-me-with-the-facts-my-mind’s-made-up, disconnected-from-reality critics of genuine school reform.  (Forgive my bluntness, but I can’t stand ideological extremists of any persuasion, especially when kids end up getting screwed.)

LDH and Stanford’s Ed School decided to test their educational theories in the real world, starting a charter school in 2001 to serve the low-income, mostly-Latino children of East Palo Alto.  I credit them for this – in fact, I think EVERY ed school should be REQUIRED to start and run, or at least partner with, a real live school.

Stanford’s original partner, Aspire Public Schools, left after five years due to a “culture clash.”

It doesn’t take much imagination to guess what happened when, freed of Aspire’s rigor and focus on the critical basics (like teaching children to read properly!), the ivory tower theories ran head on into the reality of East Palo Alto kids.  The results were easy to predict: the school fell on its face:

Darling-Hammond has blamed the students — many are English Learners — and the tests for the school’s failure, Tilson writes. But other schools are educating the same kind of students, including a K-8 charter run by Aspire.

This appears to be your classic “happy school,” a phrase coined by Howard Fuller to describe the most dangerous type of school – not the handful of violent, gang-infested high schools, but rather the elementary schools that are safe and appear ok: the students are happy, the parents are happy, the teachers are happy, the principal is happy…  There’s only one problem: THE KIDS CAN’T READ!!!

I’ve written a Pajamas Media column on this that should run soon.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the link, Joanne – I’ve never been called a fish-barrel-shooter before!

    Cordially,

    FBS

  2. I don’t think it’s fair to include Diane Ravitch in the same list as Linda Darling-Hammond, Deb Meier, and Jonathan Kozol. Ravitch may be anti-charter these days but she spends a lot of time talking about the need for a strong curriculum. I’d send my kid to a school designed by Ravitch over one designed by the other 3 any day.

  3. What Crimson Wife said. Ravitch is a huge fan of old-fashioned, robust liberal arts education. I suspect Forster has not read her books. Just because she’s against NCLB and RttT does not mean she’s FOR loosey-goosey, “happy” schools (I love that term, by the way; that’s exactly the kind of school my benighted superintendent envisions).

  4. One more thing: it is delicious that the Stanford Ed School has received this comeuppance.

  5. If Ravitch can’t see that there’s something structurally unsound about the concept of the school district then she’s properly lumped with the other folks who maintain that if just the right arrangement of deck chairs can be found there’s no need to worry about those pesky icebergs.

  6. Of course, the Ultra-Liberals will fall back on their old, tired straw-man…..”the problem wasn’t the teaching methods/curriculum, it was that we didn’t spend enough MONEY….” The answer to how much money do we spend to educate our children properly is always MORE, MORE, MORE to these folks….

  7. I have to admit I’m glad that they tested this out on a small scale rather than trying to implement it on a state or nationwide basis. And when it failed it went out of business, as it should have. The goal would be to expand the concept of charter schools to school choice so that all bad schools fail and good schools (and teaching ideas) spread.

    BTW if you are for things like school choice you might like this candidate Ryan Brumberg whose a great candidate I have been following (New York’s 14th Congressional District): http://www.brumberg2010.com

  8. Interviewing for college this year we stopped by Stanford. Great academic reputation, but the place was really disturbing. They were completely over the top on race. They have all sorts of de facto segregated dorms and are clearly looking for minorities. If you factor legacy, blacks, american indians (reparation from formerly having an Indian mascot, I suppose) and jocks. A smart white un-connected kid does not stand much of a shot at getting in. That did not bother me that much. Who would go there.

    Thank God for Ward Connerly. He saved the UC system.

  9. ToHayekWithYou says:

    There is no one associated with Obama who is not a failure in any sense other than they have managed to attain power far in excess of their abilities. They all failed upwards though since the basic creed of modern progressive thought is to reward failure and punish success.

    Teaching is not rocket science. We all do it every day. It has been done in a formal sense for as long as there has been recorded history. For someone to think they have a “new and better” way of doing it and that it has been done wrong by everyone who came before is just silly.

    We have reached the stage where a degree in education will be a hindrance to anyone wishing to be a good teacher.

    Everyone knows this but won’t do anything about it. There are thousands of engineers who would make good math teachers and thousands of retired doctors who could teach a biology course but since their minds aren’t filled with mush they are not allowed to teach. Men or women of accomplishment could not set through, and would not put themselves through the indoctrination that is required to get a teaching credential.

    In a downturn where people are looking for work a private business would be pursuing these individual to upgrade their staff were they allowed to do so.

    Given the system we have, we get what we deserve.

  10. ToHayekwithyousaid: “We have reached the stage where a degree in education will be a hindrance to anyone wishing to be a good teacher.

    Everyone knows this but won’t do anything about it. There are thousands of engineers who would make good math teachers and thousands of retired doctors who could teach a biology course but since their minds aren’t filled with mush they are not allowed to teach. Men or women of accomplishment could not set through, and would not put themselves through the indoctrination that is required to get a teaching credential.

    In a downturn where people are looking for work a private business would be pursuing these individual to upgrade their staff were they allowed to do so.”

    Beautifully said! I’d just add that this is what happens when ed schools actually get involved in education–they fail!

  11. There is no one associated with Obama who is not a failure in any sense other than they have managed to attain power far in excess of their abilities. They all failed upwards though since the basic creed of modern progressive thought is to reward failure and punish success.

    Actually, that’s the conservative model of success: reward treason and stupidity with incomes at “think” tanks. God, you people are disgusting.

  12. MikeIsJealous says:

    Mike (April 24, 2010 at 10:44 am)

    Poor Mike. He’s jealous because someone makes more money than him or possibly a company makes profit. Liberalism is a disease which must be eradicated. I can see November from here.

  13. @ToHayekWithYou

    You should check out the New Teacher Project if you want to see a program interested in recruiting exactly the kind of people you are describing. I’m a former college comm and English teacher without an education class to my name who will be teaching high school English in a high needs school this fall and the extent of my “Education” classes will be a summer institute for 7 weeks. We are always looking for more people interested in using their degree in a new and helpful way.

    Tim

  14. Calling Ravitch a left winger is ludicrous, despite whatever cavils Allen can come up with.

  15. Ravitch A “Progressive”, Is She Not?

    I would still lump her in with LDH, Kozol, Meier, now add Alfie Kohn. Comeuppance is not enough for the likes of LDarling-Hammond. Is there no malpractice option by which one can sue for remedies, especially for those 200 kids in this experiment?

    Let the list grow … Who else is doing harm with their “intellectual” theories? Are there no safeguards when experiments are being undertaken? What about psychological damage to these subjects, “guinea pigs”?

    This is what I’ve written about Ravitch for the Washington Post blog: “Her credibility is low with me. As long as she remains a Director of the Albert Shanker Institute which is funded and housed at the American Federation of Teachers HQ in Washington, DC, I will continue to see her as in the pocket of teacher unions. Albert Shanker, president of the AFT from ’74-’97 never, to my knowledge, disavowed being a Marxist.”

    Her other fault I decry is that she is contemptuous of parents. She does not trust them to be instrumental in their kids’ lives and does not support choice or any effective voice for parents in their schools.

  16. Marxist or not, Albert Shanker was a mensch. The most sensible, no-nonsense, wise voice on education of his generation. His weekly essays published in the New Republic were beacons of sanity for me as I navigated oceans of nonsense in ed school.

  17. There are many stories that have not been told here – for one, that the school board offered strong support for the high school part of SNS and that the elementary part was only three years old, with test scores similar to those of other (now highly praised) schools at the same stage of development. And this is all aside from questioning the merit of obsolete tests used to measure so-called student achievement. Here’s more: http://bit.ly/sns-atp-blog

  18. Misla Barco says:

    I have been teaching at East Palo Alto Academy High school for 7 years, and I was a teacher for 7 years before that. Contrary to the inaccurate news reports, EPAA is a highly successful small school in a high-need community. Although our school has one of the highest poverty rates and lowest parent education levels in the state (2/3 of our parents have less than a high school education), we graduated 86% of our students last year — well above the state average — and we had 96% of our graduates admitted to college, most of them to 4-year universities. I teach Spanish at the school, and in our AP Spanish class, we have had 85-100% pass rates on the AP exam for the last six years.

    This success is possible because of the more personalized attention we can give our students. Each one has an advisor who works with them for 4 years, and the advisor is available to students and parents all the time to support academic and personal needs. In bigger schools, I taught 150 students every day. It was impossible to establish strong relationships with all of them, even with enormous effort. By comparison, at EPAA, I have the opportunity to fully connect to each student and each family, and that relationship allows me to pinpoint the supports that students need. Even after the students graduate, we continue to support them, financially and emotionally. When they run into issues at college, they call their advisors. At EPAA HS, we no only want our students to be accepted and go to college; we want them to graduate from college! We keep the parents strongly involved, we run bilingual monthly parent meetings where we offer a myriad of classes for the parents such as nutrition, ESL, technology, legal rights and immigration to name a few. This involvement is much more difficult in big schools, which is why hundreds of parents and students turned out to support the school at the local board meeting a few weeks ago.

    Fortunately, the Ravenswood board recognizes the strong value EPAA high school has brought to the community and voted last week to approve an extension to the charter. Our school is open and will continue to serve the community.

    In addition, Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond has only worked with my site, the high school. We were all very sad when she left her EPAA HS advisor position in spring of 2008 to work on The Obama campaign and transition team. She just came back to the high school a few months ago. Furthermore, Stanford New Schools began long after she helped co-found the high school. Stanford’s dean, Deborah Stipek, who chairs it, started SNS. Dr Linda Darling-Hammond has not even been on the board the last two years. But why don’t you visit the high school and meet the students and see what is going on the classrooms instead of writing misleading blogs and attacks on Dr. Darling- Hammond? Maybe, then, you can write a factual piece about my school.

    Misla Barco
    [email protected]
    Spanish Teacher
    Community Liaison

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  3. […] IN A REBUKE TO STANFORD’S EDUCATION SCHOOL, Stanford charter elementary to close. […]

  4. […] the neediest students. They wanted to try their ideas in the real world.  As Whitney Tilson says, all education schools should do this. But . . . Well, read the PJ […]