Big districts hire more cops than counselors

School security officers outnumber counselors in some of the nation’s largest school districts, including New York City, Chicago, Miami-Dade County and Houston, reports Matt Barnum for The 74.

Some cities, such as New York City, hire high numbers of both security staff and counselors, the analysis found.

Others, such as  Houston and Los Angeles, don’t have many guards or counselors. Both school districts have their own police force.

Most school security officers have little training in dealing with troubled and special-needs students, reports The 74.

$7 billion didn’t help worst schools

Pouring $7 billion into America’s worst schools has produced few “turnarounds,” reports Caitlin Emma in Politico.  Nationwide, “about two thirds of (School Improvement Grant) SIG schools nationwide made modest or no gains — not much different from similarly bad schools that got no money at all,” she writes. “About a third of the schools actually got worse.”

In Miami, a high school in Little Haiti has moved from an “F” rating to a “B,” with help from SIG money. Achievement remains low, but not as low as it used to be.

Security is a concern at Christian Fenger High School in Chicago. Credit: Peter Hoffman, Education Week

Security is a concern at Christian Fenger High School in Chicago. Credit: Peter Hoffman, Education Week

At a low-performing school in Chicago, nothing changed. Fewer than 10 percent of juniors are proficient in reading, math and science, the same level as before.

Miami Superintendent Alberto Carvalho lined up “the support of teachers, unions and parents,” before SIG money arrived, writes Emma. With union buy-in, he was able to move strong teachers to low-performing schools, transferring weaker teachers to other placements.

“In Chicago, where teachers fought the program and officials changed almost yearly, schools churned through millions of dollars but didn’t budge the needle, reports Emma.

In 1989, 16 high-poverty, low- scoring elementary schools in Austin, Texas, were awarded $300,000 a year for five years, above normal school spending, to settle a desegregation suit. After five years, little had changed at 14 of the 16 schools, I wrote in a San Francisco Chronicle column. Two schools improved dramatically in achievement and attendance.

Only two of the 16 schools had plans for raising achievement before they got the money, researchers Richard J. Murnane and Frank Levy wrote in an analysis of the “natural experiment.”

In the 14 schools that didn’t improve, the money was used to lower class sizes, but teaching and curriculum stayed the same — and so did results. In the two schools that improved, principals lowered class size, but that was just the start of many changes.

Here’s the Education Department’s new SIG report.

Low-income charter kids earn higher scores

In Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, and Miami-Dade County, low-income charter students scored significantly higher than low-income students in district-run schools on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), notes Education Reform Now.

The difference of 10 scale score points in reading translates roughly into one year’s worth of learning.

On the NAEP math exam, low-income charter students averaged 8 scale score points higher, nearly a year’s worth of learning, compared to low-income students in district-run schools.

Campbell Brown launches ‘The 74’

Former NBC News and CNN anchor Campbell Brown has launched a new “online education newsroom” called The Seventy Four.

“Through our reporting we will advocate for a public school system that truly serves the 74 million children in this country,” she writes. “We will fiercely challenge those forces within the education establishment who impede innovation in our schools and who protect and defend inequality and institutional failure. And we will champion the principals, teachers and parents who are demanding the highest standards and best education possible for all of our kids.”

The Seventy Four will host live forums on education in New Hampshire and Iowa. They will gather “prominent elected officials, political influencers, and education thought leaders to discuss the greatest challenges facing America’s education system.”

The launch includes a story on The Great Miami Turnaround led by Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who’s expanding magnets, charters and other schools of choice.

Roughly 62 percent of students—that’s more than 200,000 kids—will attend one of these programs in the 2015-16 school year, either in a separate, all-inclusive school like iPrep or a part-time program within a traditional neighborhood school. Some 30 new programs open each year, ranging in specialty from conservation biology to the performing arts to vocational training.

Carvalho came from Portugal at 17, without parents or documents. While working as a restaurant busboy, he met a legislator who helped him get a student visa and work permit and persuaded him to take community college classes.

Artists transform ‘prison-like school’


wynwood miami artist
Before and after for a Miami middle school in the newly artsy Wynwood neighborhood. 

Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, once known for empty warehouses, drugs and gang violence, is now a mecca for artists, reports Eleanor Goldberg in the Huffington Post. Jose de Diego Middle School, where 96 percent of students live below the poverty line, no longer looks like a stark white “prison.”

This year, Principal April Thompson-Williams persuaded the district to fund an art teacher for the first time in years. And she worked with local arts groups to get the school painted for free.

“Immediately, I was overwhelmed by the amount of wall space,” said Robert de los Rius, owner of, “just amazing canvas for art.” He organized the painting: 73 artists from Miami and around the world participated.

He also launched a fundraiser to develop an arts program called the “RAW Project” –- Reimagining the Arts in Wynwood.

“This is a critical time where kids choose who they want to be, what they want to be and what they want to get into,” Diana Contreras, a Miami artist who participated in the project, told HuffPost. “And they need a way to express themselves.”

Students feel calmer and safer in the new environment, Thompson-Williams said. The middle school is losing fewer students to charters.

Did school crime cover-up lead to Trayvon’s death?

By covering up students’ crimes, Miami-Dade schools contributed to Trayvon Martin’s death, argues Robert Stacy McCain on the American Spectator‘s blog. District policy was to treat crimes as disciplinary infractions, shielding students from serious consequences.

. . . Chief Charles Hurley of the Miami-Dade School Police Department (MDSPD) in 2010 had implemented a policy that reduced the number of criminal reports, manipulating statistics to create the appearance of a reduction in crime within the school system. Less than two weeks before Martin’s death, the school system commended Chief Hurley for “decreasing school-related juvenile delinquency by an impressive 60 percent for the last six months of 2011.”

Four months before his fatal encounter with George Zimmerman, Martin was caught at school with women’s jewelry that matched items stolen from a home near the high school; he also had a screwdriver that the school resource officer called a “burglary tool.” Martin said a friend had given him the items. Instead of telling the police, the school suspended Martin for graffiti and stored the jewelry as “found property.”

Days before his death, Martin was caught with a small amount of marijuana. Suspended again, he was sent to his father’s girlfriend’s house in Sanford.

When the Miami Herald reported on Martin’s disciplinary record at Krop High School. Chief Hurley launched an internal investigation to determine who’d leaked the information, inadvertently revealing the report-no-evil policy.

If Trayvon Martin had been a little older and wiser, he’d have walked straight back to the house instead of doubling back to confront and punch Zimmerman, giving him a viable self-defense case. (The evidence and witnesses — both prosecution and defense — support this scenario.) Sadly, Martin never got the chance to grow up.  If he’d been arrested for burglary . . . ? Arresting teenagers usually doesn’t turn them into model citizens. Unfortunately, neither does not arresting them.

Rachel Jeantel: ‘I have a 3.0’

“I am educated. Trust me, I have a 3.0,” Trayvon Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel told a Miami TV station.

Jeantel has been offered multiple scholarship opportunities, including one from morning radio talk show host Tom Joyner, who has offered her a tutor to help her graduate and to prep for the SAT and four years of tuition to any Historically Black College or University.

This doesn’t make Miami schools look good, but I suspect it’s inaccurate. If Jeantel really were a B student, she wouldn’t be a 19-year-old about to start 12th grade.

Milwaukee, Fresno fail reading for low-income kids

If you plan to be reincarnated as a low-income student and you’d like to be literate, pick Tampa, New York City or Miami, writes Matthew Ladner, who’s been looking at the urban NAEP results. Avoid Milwaukee and Fresno, where very few low-income students reach proficiency in reading.


Washington, D.C. “has improved but is still horrible,” he adds, writing on Jay Greene’s blog. “Everyone in Wisconsin ought to be horrified by the abomination that is the Milwaukee Public Schools.”


Miami tries merit pay

Miami is giving performance pay to teachers under a plan the teachers’ union helped design. Federal Race to the Top dollars are paying for bonuses based on students’ or schools’ test scores and gains.

For Miami-Dade teachers who do not teach FCAT subjects — such as P.E., chemistry or drama — their entire school’s FCAT reading scores will be factored into their reviews for the 2011-12 school year. Eventually, under state law, there will be a test for every subject that will be used to evaluate students and teachers.

In the first wave of bonuses, about 85 percent of the Miami-Dade district’s 20,000-plus teachers qualify for extra money in four categories, depending on how their school, department or students scored on the FCAT. Most bonuses range from about $500 to just more than $1,500. Some teachers will not see any extra money.

All Florida districts are required to pay teachers based on effectiveness by 2014.