Sanders hits ‘private’ charter schools

“I believe in public education, and I believe in public charter schools,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said at Democratic Town Hall in Ohio on Sunday. “I do not believe in private — privately controlled charter schools,” the presidential candidate added.

Charter schools are all public,” writes Anya Kamenetz on NPR. “And, each has some element of private control.”

Students and young adults asking the U.S. Senator from Vermont about issues ranging from education to immigration to crime to child care during a campaign event at Creative Visions, an organization founded by former Des Moines School Board member and current State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad. (Flickr/Phil Roeder)

Bernie Sanders campaigns in Iowa. Photo: Flickr, Phil Roeder

More than 40 states — but not Vermont — allow charter schools, writes Emily Richmond on Educated Reporter. Some states let charter school governing boards hire for-profit companies to manage their schools or provide services. Others do not.

Nationwide, only 15 percent of charters are under for-profit management, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Twenty-six percent are managed by nonprofit organizations and 59 percent are run independently by the school’s leadership.

2014 Gallup poll showed lots of confusion about charter schools, Richmond writes. While 63 percent of respondents supported charter schools, nearly half thought charters were private and that charters could teach religion. Fifty-seven percent said charters could charge tuition and two-thirds thought charters could pick and choose students.

Phil Fiermonte, the former executive director of the Vermont American Federation of Teachers, is Sanders’ field director, reports Education Week in a look at candidates’ education advisors.

Education disrupted?


Students Fiona (left) and Lina do a lesson on their iPad Minis at the first AltSchool in San Francisco. Photo: Michael Short, San Francisco Chronicle

AltSchool is opening very tiny, very expensive private schools in the San Francisco area and New York City to “disrupt education,” writes Rebecca Mead in the New Yorker. 

The venture-capital-funded K-8 microschools, founded by a former Google exec, use technology to personalize learning.

A girl in the class was completing an offline task—reading a book about polar bears. A boy lay on his stomach on the carpeted floor, headphones on, using a Web site called BrainPOP to learn how to calculate the perimeters of basic shapes. “Two out of five!” he shouted . . .

Two girls sat together, laptops before them, using Google Images to scroll through pictures of seals for a social-studies assignment; occasionally, they paused to compare notes. Every so often, a student spoke with the teacher, a young woman in jeans and a loose top, her iPhone tucked under her thigh as she sat on the carpet. One girl had been using her laptop to research castles—an area of sustained interest. She and the teacher discussed princesses and castles, and whether they always went together. “That’s a good question,” the teacher said, and then asked, “Does America have princesses?”

Teachers use an app to communicate with parents. “A network of audio and video recorders captures “every word, action, and interaction, for potential analysis,” writes Mead.

Parents pay $30,000 a year. If their kids do well, is it the school?

The Silicon Valley-based Summit charter network personalizes learning for a wide range of students — many from low-income and working-class families. The schools are free to parents and operate on a modest budget. That’s a lot more disruptive.

Facebook engineers have helped the school develop its Personalized Learning Plan platform, which is being made “available, for free, to schools nationwide,” reports the Los Angeles Times. Summit is helping 19 district-run and charters schools access “teacher training, mentoring guidance and the software.”

Duncan’s kids will go to private school

Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits a Washington D.C. school.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits a Washington D.C. school.

After six years in Arlington, Va., public schools, Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s two children will transfer to a private school in Chicago. Duncan plans to remain in D.C. and commute to Chicago on the weekends, reports an Education Department spokesman.

The children will enroll in the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where Duncan — and the Obama daughters — attended. Duncan’s wife Karen worked at the school before the family’s move to Washington and will return to her old job, a spokesman said.

Nevada OKs vouchers for all

Starting next school year, Nevada parents will be able to use public funds to pay for private or parochial school, an online learning program or the costs of homeschooling, reports the Washington Post. Low-income families or students with disabilities can receive $5,700 per year, what the state spends per student. More affluent families will receive about $5,100 a year.

Including local and federal funding, Nevada public schools received an average of $8,339 per student in 2013, well below the national average of $10,700.

Parents, teachers and students wore yellow scarves to rally for school choice in Carson City, Nevada.

Parents, teachers and students wore yellow scarves to rally for school choice proposals in Carson City, Nevada.

Under the new law, children must be enrolled in a public school for at least 100 days before they can use the money, which will be held in an Education Savings Account.

Choice advocates are pushing the idea in Georgia, Iowa and Rhode Island.

Since 2006, 27 states have opted for vouchers, tax credits for donations to scholarship funds or education savings accounts, notes the Post. Most programs are limited to low-income or disabled students.

Earlier this year, the Nevada legislature approved tax credits to businesses that donate money to a scholarship fund to help low-income students attend private schools.

The Friedman Foundation, which backs the Nevada plan, identified a Las Vegas parent who hopes to use the new vouchers.

Aurora Espinoza, a single mother who works as a solar-panel sales representative, said her children’s current public schools — which are among the nation’s fastest-growing — are so crowded that it’s hard for them to learn.

She hopes to enroll her daughters in a private school next year.

 

Talking about race — in 3rd grade

Can Racism Be Stopped in the Third Grade? asks Lisa Miller in New York Magazine.  Can it be stopped by getting kids to think about their racial identity?

Fieldston, a very liberal private school in New York City separated third, fourth and fifth graders by race to discuss their racial identity for five weeks this spring. After the weekly “affinity groups” meeting, there was a mixed-race debriefing.

Slightly less than half the students at Fieldston’s Lower School are white, 20 percent are black or Latino, 20 percent multiracial and “the remainder are Asian or won’t say.”

Sorting by race offends many parents, who posted an online petition protesting the program, writes Miller. They wonder why the school is “forcing these children to define themselves and their families so narrowly” and at such an early age.

Ben Hort, an Irish-Jewish parent described as “blue-eyed” and “devilish,” calls it segregation. His wife is a Colombian-American with “dark-brown skin and black hair.”

 Two of their children look white, or whitish, and one is browner, with his mother’s black hair and almond eyes. To them, making racial identity a multiple-choice proposition diminishes who they really are. . . . “The kids are Colombian, they’re Jewish, they’re Irish. They’re from New York; they’re American. We are mixed.”

Like his older brother, 9-year-old Jacob Hort rejected “multi-racial” to join the “not sure” group. Asked to write on a Post-it the things that make him unique, he wrote “American. Dog lover. Me.”

Two black parents — both with Ivy League educations — tell Miller they support the program. Their kids are identified by race and need to be able to deal with it. (Wouldn’t the parents do a better job of this than anyone at the school?)

A black third-grader likes “to be with people I can share my race with” without feeling uncomfortable.

However, a fifth-grader in the Asian group complains it’s “so fricking boring . . . The conversations we have are mostly about the tensions between whites and blacks, and never about Asians or Hispanic people.”

“Here is fancy, expensive, and elitist Fieldston Lower School instituting a program that’s whole purpose is to crystallize out-dated, divisive ideas about race,” complains White Boy Rants.

Public school teacher, private school parent

A veteran public school teacher, Michael Godsey explains why his daughter will attend private school. He wants her to go to school with classmates who think learning is cool.

History Day at San Luis Obispo Classical Academy

History Day at San Luis Obispo Classical Academy

San Luis Obispo Classical Academy (SLOCA) is a small private school in California that promotes “personal character” and “love of learning,” he writes in The Atlantic.

In 90 minutes of observing a class at SLOCA, he saw “zero interruptions, zero yawns, and zero cell phones.” All 15 students, ranging from sophomores to seniors, were ready, willing and able to learn.

That the teacher was fluent in that day’s topic, the Holy Roman Empire, was clear in at least two ways: One, she answered every question thoroughly, without hesitation; two, I could actually hear every word she said, in the tone and volume she intended. She didn’t have to yell to be heard, and she didn’t speak quickly in fear of interruption. She could subtly emphasize certain words, and her jokes landed.

He also observed a class at the public high school where he teaches English.

The educator’s passion is evident, and his typed lesson plans are immaculate and thoughtful. It’s not completely clear how fluent he is in the subject matter, however, because he has been interrupted or distracted by 20 things in 20 minutes: a pencil being sharpened, a paper bag being crumpled and tossed, a few irrelevant jokes that ignite several side conversations, a tardy student sauntering in with a smirk, a student feeding yogurt to a friend, a random class clown outside the window, and the subsequent need to lower the blinds, to name a few. The teacher is probably distracted by a disconcerting suspicion that he’s talking primarily to himself.

In public school, where “everything is both free and compulsory,” there is a “culture of coolness, the norm of disengagement,” writes Godsey. He’s willing to pay for his child to be immersed in a community that supports enthusiastic learners.

Detroit Public Schools woo middle-class families

Detroit Public Schools has closed more than 80 schools due to severe drops in enrollment. (Photo: Sarah Butrymowicz)

Detroit Public Schools has closed more than 80 schools due to severe drops in enrollment. (Photo: Sarah Butrymowicz)

Detroit Public Schools is trying to “attract middle-class families to one of the worst school systems in the country,” writes Sarah Butrymowicz on the Hechinger Report. The district is competing with charter, suburban and private schools — and the tendency of middle-class parents to move when their oldest child reaches school age.

Dara Hill, a college professor and mother of a four-year-old, diligently scribbled notes as the principal of Detroit’s Nichols Elementary-Middle School led her and several of her neighbors on a tour of the school. A room for special education students was brimming with stuffed animals, but the hallways were sparsely decorated. Work displayed in the kindergarten classroom was charming and developmentally appropriate. Why were there six students sitting to the side during gym class?

Nichols . . . typically performs at or slightly above average on state tests. It’s also a five-minute walk from Hill’s home . . .

An education professor, Hill joined a parent group called the Best Classroom Project. Parents, mostly middle class, share information and coordinate school visits.

School officials hope to use the Project to “reach the city’s small middle class as a means of ultimately growing a larger one,” writes Butrymowicz. In the district’s downtown offices, a “war room” is devoted to strategizing on how to raise enrollment.

On one wall, a Sun Tzu quote a translation of “The Art of War” hangs next to a poster someone has titled, “THE QUESTION: How shall DPS compete and win the marketplace?” The answer, posted next to it, is “Empowered DPS employee’s operating via synchronized, lean agile and leveraged work efforts.”

But it’s not all corporate doublespeak.

Officials gathered community volunteers to walk with children to school and are working with the city’s lighting authority to get broken streetlights near schools replaced first. They’ve picked 20 schools to serve as community hubs. They’re open 12 hours a day and filled with resources and classes for parents. Music or art is now taught at every elementary school — although many schools can’t afford to to offer both.

They’ve also launched new academic programs, like the three-year-old Benjamin Carson High School of Medicine and Technology. Many students there said they returned to the district from charter schools because they were attracted by Carson’s small size and focus on science. They praised the school and its academics, but in the spring, in the school’s first year of state testing, only 9 percent of 11th-graders passed the state math test and just 1 percent did in science. About 40 percent were proficient in reading and writing.

“A handful of parents from the Best Classroom Project opted to send their children to high-performing DPS schools this fall, but Hill’s leading contender is a private school,” writes Butrymowicz.

Public: 21% of teachers deserve D or F

Americans think half of teachers in their local schools deserve a grade of A or B, while more than a fifth are doing D or F work, reports Education Next‘s 2014 poll. ednext_XV_1_poll_fig03-small

Teachers say 69 percent of their colleagues deserve an A or B, while 8 percent perform at the D level and 5 percent merit an F.

Half of the non-teachers opposed teacher tenure, while one third favored it. “Even 65 percent of respondents who favor tenure say it should be based on student performance,” reports Ed Next.

Teachers endorse tenure by a two-to-one margin and only a third of teachers support basing tenure on student test performance.

Fifty-seven percent of the public supports “basing part of the salaries of teachers on how much their students learn.” Only 21 percent of teachers back merit pay.

More than one-fourth of all families with school-age children have educated a child in a setting other than a traditional public school.

ednext_XV_1_poll_fig04-small

Teachers are as likely to use private, charter or homeschooling.

Public support for Common Core State Standards has eroded in the last year, the survey found.

People like Common Core’s goals, but the “brand” has been damaged, writes Mike Petrilli.

While 39 of voters say the economy is the number one issue that will influence their vote in November, education is the second most important issue, cited by 16 percent of voters according to the new Reason-Rupe poll.

Twenty-five percent of Democrats, but only 12 percent of Republicans, say education will have the most influence on their vote in the midterm elections. African Americans (36 percent) and Hispanics (25 percent) are more likely than whites (14 percent) to rank education as their top issue.

Are you smart enough for kindergarten?

Are You Smart Enough to Get Into Private Kindergarten? asks DNAinfo.com. Some of New York City’s most elite private schools will require four-year-olds to take a new, harder admissions test.

ERB‘s Admission Assessment for Beginning Learners  (AABL) costs $65, rather than $568 for the old test, because the new test doesn’t require a trained examiner. Kids take it on an iPad. But “experts believe many parents will shell out even more on classes and books to prepare their toddlers.”

“The AABL is supposed to identify a child’s ability and achievement,” said Emily Glickman, president of Abacus Guide Educational Consulting. Achievement for preschoolers? That’s “totally new,” she says.

Here are five sample questions from the test. All seem to be measuring intelligence rather than knowledge. I got 100 percent — but one answer (see below) was a 50-50 guess. I still don’t know why my answer was correct. If I’d seen this when I was four . . .

Which completes the pattern?

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Tale of two schools

Students from a primarily Latino public school in the South Bronx got together with students from a ritzy private school for an exercise in “radical empathy,” reports the New York Times magazine in The Tale of Two Schools.

Under the supervision of Narrative 4, the students paired off, one from each school, and shared stories that in some way defined them. When they gathered as a group a few hours later, each student was responsible for telling the other’s story, taking on the persona of his or her partner and telling the story in the first person.

I was impressed by the low-income students’ confidence that they can have a better future. Nagib Gonzalez, 18, said: “Being poor is the biggest motivation for me because I come from the bottom, and my goal is to reach the top. People say that success is not determined by income, and I mostly agree, but I want my success to be determined by income. I want to be able to support my family.”