Hill: Don’t ditch NY City’s ed reforms

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s education plan has raised graduation rates and created more high-quality schools, argues Paul T. Hill in The Atlantic. “Don’t ditch it,” writes Hill, who directs the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington.

Bill de Blasio, the likely next New York City mayor, has made a lot of promises about public education. No additional charter schools; no free space for many charter schools educating city kids; less reliance on student test performance to judge schools; and a moratorium on the closure of low-performing schools.

If the new mayor follows through, he’ll dismantle Bloomberg’s Children First reforms, writes Hill. That would be bad for students.

When Bloomberg became mayor, less than half the students in New York City’s high schools graduated in four years.  Today, nearly two-thirds graduate on time. Every year, more than 18,000 young people graduate high school than would have been expected in 2002. The percentage of graduates who enter college without needing to take remedial courses has doubled since 2001.

Furthermore, “new small high schools started during the Bloomberg administration are more effective than the schools they replaced,” writes Hill.

On campuses where new small schools replaced large underperforming high schools, the overall graduation rate increased from 37.9 percent to 67.7 percent. . . . Students who entered the new small schools with the lowest test scores benefited from them the most.

New York City charter students are learning more than their counterparts in traditional schools, according to the most recent CREDO study. That’s especially true for low-income minority students and special education students.

Across the city, in new schools and old ones, the trends are positive, writes Hill. New York’s next mayor should commit to key parts of the Children First agenda:

 Keep pupil-based funding. Continue to increase the share of total funding that goes directly to schools. The students most in need benefit most from pupil based funding.

Preserve gains in the teaching force via recruitment from many sources, rigorous tenure processes, and mutual consent hiring at the school level.

Keep opening new schools especially in neighborhoods where there are few or no high performing schools. Don’t cut off chartering as one route to creating effective new schools.

Preserve gains in the quality of principals via rigorous selection and training and by maintaining principals’ control over their school’s staffing and spending, in-service teacher training, and purchases of assistance.

Perfect, don’t scrap, reporting on student gains by school.

Keep performance based accountability and continue re-staffing and closing/replacing persistently ineffective schools.

Continue the iZone experiment with new uses of money and technology, and help all schools use ideas that are emerging.

Is there a good old days of public schooling to which New York City could return?

The haunted school

Students Last, a humor site, visits The Haunted School.  “A robot-like coed sporting a Teach for America t-shirt and a forced smile . . .  promised to guide us through the house” but mysteriously disappeared.

“Michelle Rhee” leapt at our oldest child trying to tape his mouth shut. As my son cowered behind me, she threatened to remove my tenure while menacing me with a copy of the Common Core.

A second TFA guide appeared, but quickly vanished.

In the next room, “Executioner Andrew Cuomo” threatened to execute our school if it failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress.

When the third TFA guide abandoned the group, “we wandered into what we thought was a roomful of zombie children but it turned out they were actual kids just preparing for the specialized high school exam.”

Paternalism, progressives and public policy

Paternalism is the hallmark of Progressive reform movements — including school reform — writes Mike Petrilli on Education Gadfly. “Whether it’s Temperance and Prohibition or the effort to shutter popular but ineffective public schools . . . members of an ‘enlightened elite’ believe that they must act to create and enforce rules that will be good for the huddled masses.”

Petty Little Dictator Disorder
Petty Little Dictator Disorder and paternalism
From Jay Greene’s Blog

Petrilli often favors paternalistic policies, risking what Jay Greene calls  Petty Little Dictator Disorder.

For example, he thinks the Bloomberg-Giuliani approach to crime fighting, which includes the aggressive use of stop, question and frisk, has helped make New York the safest city in America. Low-income, minority New Yorkers benefit the most, because they’re far more likely to be crime victims.

But they’re also the most likely to be stopped, questioned and frisked, paying what Ta-Nehisi Coates calls a “racist public-safety tax.” Perhaps minority communities should get to decide whether paying this tax is worth the benefit, Petrilli suggests.

Education reformers want to close underperforming schools, even if they are popular with parents.”There’s a case to be made” that people in the community should “decide whether the tradeoffs are worth it,” he writes. But “I still don’t quite buy it.”

. . . because education is not just a “private good”—all of our welfare depends on an educated populace—isn’t it appropriate for the public to demand that schools meet certain standards, especially when taxpayer dollars are involved? Isn’t leaving it to the affected “community” just a recipe for inaction and further academic decline?

So he’s a Progressive paternalist — with qualms about dismissing the “will of the people.”

Step away from the simile, responds Sara Mead.

Chicago closes 50 schools

Chicago is closing 49 elementary schools and one high school. All are underenrolled and underperforming.  Most are in black neighborhoods.

Closing neighborhood schools won’t help low-income, inner-city students, writes Marilyn Rhames, a charter school teacher who backs most education reforms.

How will destabilizing up to 30,000 students and making many of them cross into vicious gang territory to attend rival schools make them learn better? How will increasing class size to well over 30 students improve academic results? How does making the African-American community, which will bear 90 percent of the burden, feel bullied and disenfranchised work to enhance parental and civic involvement with the school district?

. . . There aren’t enough iPads, air conditioning, new libraries, and start-up IB programs at the new schools to make me go along with this.

Closing only the worst schools would have given the district time to perfect its implementation plans, Rhames writes. ” Right now the district is asking firefighters to double as glorified security and crossing guards!”

In this story, a Chicago mother says “if you’re not teaching children, it needs closing.”

Chicago teachers’ union targets mayor

Angry about school closings, the Chicago Teachers Union will seek to unseat Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other officials, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Asked at a news conference if she would consider a run for mayor, CTU President Karen Lewis quickly and loudly said, “No. Thank you.” But then she added, “Not yet.”

Union officials plan to register voters and recruit candidates for the city council and state legislature.

The Board of Education is expected to vote May 22 on the plan to close 53 elementary schools and one high school program.

“There is no democracy here,” Lewis said on Monday. “So, if the mayor and his hand-picked corporate school board will not listen to us, we must find those who will.”

D.C. debates growth of charter schools

The majority of public school students in Washington D.C. could be attending charter schools in a few years, reports the Washington Post.

Rocketship Education, a California nonprofit group that blends online and teacher-directed learning, wants to open eight D.C. charter schools that would enroll more than 5,000 students by 2019. Rocketship’s model has worked well for low-income and minority students in San Jose.

Rocketship’s charter application — which is the largest ever to come before District officials, and which might win approval this month — arrives on the heels of Chancellor Kaya Henderson’s decision to close 15 half-empty city schools, highlighting an intense debate about the future of public education in the nation’s capital.

. . . “Maybe we need an entire school system full of charters,” said Virginia Spatz, who co-hosts a community-radio talk show on D.C. education. “But we need to have that after public conversation, not by accident.”

Reading and math scores rose significantly in Washington, D.C. from 2005 to 2011, note Aaron Churchill and Mike Petrilli in a Flypaper post that asks: Do demographic shifts explain cities’ test-score changes? Median household income also is on the rise in D.C. (Your tax dollars at work!) 

Closing bad schools — a civil rights issue?

Closing or reorganizing low-performing urban schools discriminates against black and Hispanic students whose schools are most likely to be targeted, charge community activists in the Journey for Justice Movement.

Closing neighborhood schools is “a violation of our human rights,” said Jitu Brown, an organizer from the South Side of Chicago, in a meeting with Education Secretary Arne Duncan yesterday.

Helen Moore, an organizer from Detroit, said the current reform movement is tantamount to racism. “We are now reverting back to slavery,” she said. “All the things that are happening are by design, by design, by design. They don’t want our children to have an education, but we’ll fight to the death.”

The Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights is investigating civil rights complaints against Philadelphia, Detroit and Newark. Closure plans in New York, Chicago and Washington also have been challenged. However, 27 investigations in the last few years found no bias in school closures. Duncan’s spokesman, Daren Briscoe, said the Education Department doesn’t have the power to order a moratorium on school closings. (Finally, there’s something the feds think is out of their jurisdiction!)

Why would anyone fight to the death for schools with low test scores, high dropout rates — and empty classrooms?

Urban schools aren’t just a place for education, says Sarah Garland, author of Divided We Fail on the end of school segregation in Louisville, Kentucky. “For most people their high school is part of who they are and who the community is.”

Kansas City school closure round-up

Nearly half  the public schools in Kansas City, MO will be shut down to forestall bankruptcy, according to the board of education there.   I’ve rounded up some news stories and blog posts about this measure.  Discuss amongst yourselves.

CS Monitor    Kansas City to close 26 schools. Unprecedented move in US?

NY Times       Board’s Decision to Close 28 Kansas City Schools Follows Years of Inaction

Rod Dreher   Why did Kansas City’s public schools fail?

Tony’s Kansas City  YouTube on Kansas City School Closings

KMBC                Teachers React to School Closings

KCTV                  School Board Candidates Answer Tough Questions

Glenn Sandifer  Kansas City Locals Defend, Mourn School Closings

Detroit to close 29 schools in the fall

In Detroit, 29 public schools are slated to close in the fall; 900 teachers and 33 principals will be dismissed. Robert Bobb, the emergency financial manager for the district, has created a “master plan” for improving the schools.

How did he decide which schools to close? According to the Washington Post, “… Bobb and his staff looked at the age and condition of the buildings, as well as how many students attend them. Academic performance also was taken into account.”

So farewell to Elmdale Elementary, which is underenrolled but meeting performance standards. In the meantime, millions of dollars are going to the new Cass Technical High School, “considered a model for 21st-century urban high schools.”

Bobb’s master plan “calls for improving technology and updating classrooms. Curriculum also is being reviewed to make sure students are getting what they need in reading, writing, math, science and other programs, Bobb said.”

Why not do this for Elmdale? And why does curriculum seem like an afterthought, an “also” that comes after spiffy equipment?