Another brilliant set of observations from Erich Martel:
As many know, AFT President Albert Shanker favored a version of charter, probably more like autonomy, but very different from the current charter campaign to dismantle much of DCPS. His idea was that charters would be freed from some of the city-wide contractual procedures, in order to encourage a freer legal format for innovation. They would retain contract-negotiated, due-process rights with exceptions to the basic contract negotiated via a Memo of Agreement.
The idea begins with an alternative plan for “School A,” and is developed with teacher and even parental input. As planning proceeds, School A teachers enthusiastic about it can choose to stay; those who aren’t interested have the right to transfer without loss of any rights or implied stigma. Teachers from other schools who would like to teach in the alternative autonomy setting, can volunteer to transfer in, knowing what the alternative contract rules will be. Then, vacancies are filled by outside hires.
One example of this was the Yonkers, NY Academy, an alternative high school, which a high school friend of mine helped to start in the early 1970s and operated within a union-Bd of Education agreement (his engaging memoir is told in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Teacher:
Another version was the NYC “chancellors’ district,” which the AFT encouraged both DCPS and the WTU to consider and which Fenty visited on his well-publicized pre-inaugural trip to NYC, escorted by Mayor Bloomberg. Rhee wasn’t interested and WTU Pres. Parker didn’t advocate for it.
What’s so bad about that?
1) The concept is founded on a plan to meet specific educational needs and goals. One would hope that the plan would be based on research and not a fad;
2) Teachers are part of the planning, thereby recognizing that they have knowledge and experience to bring to the common table.
By contrast, Rhee and Henderson and the campaign they are part of came with the message that teachers were the problem and that a mayor-backed chancellor autocrat needed the arbitrary authority to fire teachers at will, impose annually changing instructional methods, etc.
With over 50 charters and 100 charter campuses, what is their contribution to the larger improvement of charters AND DCPS? In true competition, the competitors learn from each other. What has Henderson learned from the charters? Do the charters have some methods of teaching, classroom management, use of texts and materials, strategies and technology that DCPS can learn from? I don’t doubt that some do. I don’t know that DCPS cares to learn. It took four years to adopt curricula – and that was easy, because all she had to do was hop on the Common Core standards.
Let’s not use the potentially dismissive term, “conspiracy.” Just help me understand how to characterize an assumed marketplace environment where one side is funded by an overtly anti-union, anti-veteran teacher foundation-funded campaign, with a lobbying arm (FOCUS) that, like all lobbyists, spins the facts AND the leadership of the “traditional” public school (DCPS) is aggressively funded by BY THE SAME foundations with the specific goal of creating a procedure (“mutual consent”) whereby any change of program or school closure throws teachers into an excess limbo, where their hard earned evaluation has close to zero value. You have read the letters from the four foundations that came out when the contract had to be certified by the CFO Gandhi: three conditions of the Broad, Arnold, Robertson and Walton Foundations for their $64.5 million grant to DCPS:
- Teacher salary increases (which ultimately were separated from the agreement, since Parker said that the contract was with DCPS, not with the foundations);
- “performance (sic) based excessing” – a stigmatizing misnomer, since all excessed teachers are “effective,” “highly effective” or “first time minimally effective” (the “ineffective” and second time “minimally effective” teachers were terminated at the end of the previous school year); but, the term implies that excessing is a consequence of “performance”;
- Bonus monies for “highly effective” teachers.
When those letters were made public, attention was focused on the clause about “no material change in leadership.” Little attention was paid to the requirement for continued funding: annual improvements (“predicted gains”). In two years, DCPS didn’t come close: it made only two “gains” out of the 36 Rhee “predicted.”
Think about that: Wasn’t the whole idea that teachers stripped of rights, but motivated by bonus monies, would somehow raise student achievement? When it turns out not to have happened (and a huge cheating scandal is covered up), the foundations keep paying!
WHAT, THEN, WERE THE FOUNDATIONS PAYING FOR?
WHY IS THE WALTON AMONG OTHER FOUNDATIONS SO INTENT ON FUNDING UNION-BUSTING AND CHARTERS:
IF IT AND THEY ARE SO COMMITTED TO URBAN EDUCATION, WHY ARE THEY SILENT WHEN SOME OF THEIR FAVORITES, LIKE THURGOOD MARSHALL PC DROP OVER 40% OF THEIR 9th GRADE ENROLLMENT BEFORE THE STUDENTS TAKE THEIR GRADE 10 DC CAS (4 YEAR AVERAGE: 41.2%), BECAUSE THEY CAN TRANSFER ANY STUDENT AT ANY TIME BACK TO THE SCHOOL SYSTEM “OF RIGHT”?
OSSE tells us that Thurgood Marshall’s graduation rate was 78% in 2012 and 75.44% in 2011. Sure makes DCPS look bad. But wait:
- The class of 2012 had 138 9th graders in October 2008, but only 68 seniors in October 2011 and 63 graduates in 2012. A 78% graduation rate means an adjusted cohort of 77: 61 students removed from the calculation (138 – 77 = 61)
- The class of 2011 had 129 9th graders in October 2007, but only 50 seniors in October 2010 and 43 graduates in 2011. A 75.44% graduation rate mean an adjusted cohort of 57: 72 students removed from the cohort (129 – 57 = 72)
KIPP College Prep’s 9th grade in 2008 had 117 students; 18 months later, 90 students were listed for taking the 10th grade CAS, a drop of 23% (NOTE: 90 is the test base, the denominator, not the number tested).
Cesar Chavez Capitol Hill (Ward 6)
- The class of 2012 had 187 9th graders in October 2008, but only 51 seniors in October 2011 and 50 graduates in 2012. OSSE says the graduation rate was 64%, which means an adjusted cohort of 78: 108 students removed from the cohort (186 – 78 = 108).
- The class of 2011 had 140 9th graders in October 2007, but only 71seniors in October 2010 and 73 graduates in 2011. OSSE says the graduation rate was84.88% graduation rate, which means an adjusted cohort of 86: 54 students removed from the cohort (140 – 86 = 54)
All those smart people in OSSE, Charter Board (including a representative of Fight For Children, the Lexington Institute and a former ALEC & Koch Brothers official), FOCUS, Walton, Education Pioneers, Broad Fellows, Teach Plus, TFA, KIPP, Washington Post, DC Public Education Fund (whose ex-macher became Chief of Data and Accountability and had a thing to say about the “investigation” of the suspected cheating, in which she had a conflict of interest, having arranged funding for the 2009-10, the third year of excessive test erasures and the first of the $64.5 that she arranged), etc. and they don’t notice a tilted playing field? Maybe they need some vision therapy from “Wreck-It Ralph”!
If we are using the competitive market as a model, where’s the competition, if the company CEO that is losing market share has thrown up her hands in defeat rather than wage a campaign aimed at defending her share – and she is influenced by the same influence peddlers that are funding the hostile takeover campaign.
To what end, I’m not sure, but the evidence and hints suggest the following:
1) After one compensates for passive cherry picking of students and proactive culling to transfer students that “don’t fit,” there is little difference in student performance between dcps and charters;
2) The major difference in performance is still primarily influenced by parental education as reflected in income
3) The charters (& Henderson) recognize that they have no miracle answer to lackluster student achievement
4) The charters (& Henderson) have given up on students, they
5) They have to hide their decision to give up and camouflage it
6) The camouflage is also a potential source of lucrative contracts: online learning or “blended learning,” which will enable charters to more easily create the impression of achievement on tests and in graduation rates.
7) They will continue to play the Duncan/Rhee/ed reform network mantra of “college and careers.” It’s even a slogan now: “C & C”! But try to raise the question of traditional vocational options for students and you’ll be struck down by shocked displays of righteousness! But it’s OK to give a hs diploma to kids who can barely read and compute.
What do you think can be done to restore sanity and save the public school system?