Jersey Jazzman On NY State Charter Schools and Indentured Servitude by their Teachers…

Very interesting article on the methods by which certain New York State charter school chains plan to make sure that their teachers don’t depart for less onerous working conditions and better pay in the regular public school sector. JJ says that the plan won’t work in the long run. Interesting reading, if you can follow his reasoning.

Here is the link:

How ‘Zero-Tolerance’ Policies Harm All Students


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The author, Derek Black told Jennifer Berkshire that “…some of the charter schools you’re referencing actually take it to one more level. They say ‘you don’t think we can? Just watch us. We’re going to have suspension and expulsion rates higher than anything you’ve ever seen before.’

“I think the difference between the charter system and the public system, which is really what my book is about, is that the public system doesn’t really get rid of its students; they come back. The charter school doesn’t have the responsibility of serving the community and all of its children, so that what it’s trying to do is sort of slash and burn.

“I suppose that one can slash and burn all of the low achievers and the troublemakers until there is no one left. It’s not that they’ve made the students who are left perform better, but that they’ve lopped off their low performers.”

An Immodest Proposal

If you look at the lingo used to justify all the horrendous crap being imposed by “Ed reform”, you’ll see that it’s all couched in lefty-liberal civil rights language. But its results are anything but. Very strange.

Q: Can you cite some examples?

GFB: Yes. From the TFA website:

“Everyone has a right to learn. But in our country today, the education you receive depends on where you live, what your parents earn, and the color of your skin.

“That’s a serious injustice. And in the national movement to right  our contribution is the leadership of remarkable people.

“Our people—diverse and passionate—start in low-income classrooms, where the stakes are highest. We help them become teachers who can dramatically expand students’ opportunities. But our teachers don’t just teach their students, they learn from them.

“They gain a better understanding of the problems and the opportunities in our education system and use those lessons to define their path forward. Many stay in the classroom. Others leave. Both paths matter because to set things right, we need leaders in all areas of education and social justice united in a vision that one day, all kids will have access to an excellent education.”

GFB: However, the way TFA works in practice is that the kids who need the most experienced, skillful teachers, instead get total newbies straight out of college with no teaching experience, no mentoring, and courses on how to teach whatever subject they are they are assigned to. Their five weeks of summer training are mostly rah-rah cheerleading and browbeating. Their only classroom experiences during that summer are a dozen or so hours teaching a handful of kids, **in a subject or grade level totally different from whatever they will be randomly assigned to**.

What underprivileged students do NOT need is an untrained newbie who won’t stick with them. If anything, this policy INCREASES the ‘achievement gap’.

Q: I’m sorry Guy, but none of this poses a solution. Paying the teachers more is not the answer. I know this because I would quit my engineering job in a heartbeat to teach. I honestly would. And I would do it for 1/4 the pay. But not under these  conditions. Not with “father education” telling me how to use fancy calculators to educate kids. Not when you take what I love about math and turn it into garbage. The paradigm sucks, independent of the lousy pay.

GFB: That’s yet another reason to oppose Michelle Rhee. She and her allies have figured out how to micromanage teaching down to the minute and to the very sentences teachers are required to read — from a script. Yes, she and Jason Kamras and Raj Chetty and the other billionaires friends have made it that teachers have no say whatsoever on content or methodology.

If they are not on the same page exactly, down to the minute, they can get marked down, harassed, suspended and fired.

Want to teach under those conditions for twice the pay? Me neither.

It’s not “Teach Like A Champion” as Doug Lemov puts it: it’s teach like a robot.

Q: Plus, their answer to teaching is to integrate technology. They think that if they use technology, everybody will be prepared for the “real world”. Unfortunately, the technology they use isn’t utilized in the real world. So…useless. Somebody needs to tell them this!

GFB:  That’s often true. However I think the teacher should be the one to judge how much technology to use and when. Occasionally we should show them really OLD technology like carving quill pens from turkey feathers, or making their own batteries from copper pennies and galvanized iron…

But you can’t do that with Value Added Measurements and rubrics testing whether you are on the Commin Core Crapiculum to the minute.

I wasn’t really giving THE or even A solution. I was objecting to the solution we are having imposed on us right now. If you want proposed solutions, here goes:

  1. Get people who don’t have actual, extensive teaching or research experience out of the command and control centers of education except as, no Michelle Rhee, Andre Agassi, Arne Duncan, Billionaire Broad at the helm.
  2. For our poorer kids, make sure they have free, high quality wraparound services of every kind from the moment their mother notices she’s pregnant.
  3. So for example good well-qualified dentists, ophthalmologists, psychologists, general practitioners, and other doctors should come to each school and check eyes ears nose throat etc and give immunizations to every kid, no more than a single hour of class needs to be missed. If they get hurt on the playground or suddenly vomit in class, it’s really taken care of, right away.
  4. There should be all sorts of remedial help available for kids AS SOON AS help appears to be needed: eyesight, hearing, balance, coordination, mental math, memory improvement, spelling, reading, writing, walking, emotional difficulties, etc. (Right now, the provisions of ADA and IDEA are not funded, so school districts have an incentive to NOT diagnose those with deficiences or learning disabilities, because then they would have to take care of them. Charter schools for the most part just pretend that there are no IEPs.)
  5. Every kid gets a lot of ‘gross motor’ outdoor activities – not just team sports but also things like wilderness hikes, camping, horse care and riding, farming, boating. And music and drama and arts of all sorts – not just for the talented few, but everybody. Lots of after-school activities of these sorts.
  6. Teachers (and parents) should select their principals from among the ranks of the teachers. The principal should also teach, part-time.
  7. Teachers should have at least two years of education theory (and human psychology) and a full year and a half of student teaching, and at least a college major in their area, under experienced mentors. Teachers should be given help o0n how to defuse tense situations and child psychology, and should be chosen from the ranks of those showing
    1. academic promise and
    2. the ability to empathize and
    3. the ability to explain patiently and clearly.
  8. Classes should be much, much smaller. If 12:1 is good enough at Phillips Exeter Academy with their Harkness Tables, why not at Malcolm X ES in far Southeast Washington DC? And if it’s a hands on activity like a chemistry lab or using compasses & straightedges or making birdhouses, get an assistant or two so that it’s more like 3:1.
  9. Let the teachers wrangle over curriculum. State level is fine. County level is fine. School level is fine. To hell with these state-wide standardized tests and curricula, be they bubble type or click and drag.
  10. Actual hands-on vocational training that leads to actual jobs should be available to all who want it, and corporations must engage to hire those grads at decent rates of pay and with promises of additional training.
  11. State-college or  state-university higher education needs to be much, much cheaper. Student debt, like all other debt, should be dischargeable upon bankruptcy, and should be payoff able by many kinds of national service. (Exact provisions TBD, but teaching should definitely be one of those forms of national service. Payments and interest in limbo for the first X years, paid off at Y percent per year, fully paid off after Z years. Exact values of X, Y, Z are TBD.)
  12. Teachers should be paid well enough that they don’t need to get second jobs. Pay in DCPS is not the problem. Working conditions are the problem.
  13. I think that 3-4 hours of personal contact time with kids per day is enough. Planning for each class and heading papers can easily take 2x the amount of class time. So each paper turned in by a student should be returned the next day, marked intelligently.
  14. Since the bosses have their own organizations (NAM, Chamber of Commerce, ALEC, the Koch Brothers network, Council on Foreign Relations, the Cosmos Club, etc) so should the employees. Teachers’ unions should continue to exist but should be more democratic.
  15. Students should, in fact, be held responsible for their success or failure. It’s not all on the teacher, as it is now. Social promotion for a number of years is OK, many countries do it without bad effects, but there should be some sort of a test, I think, of all sorts: practical (eg drawing something, playing a musical piece, climbing a wall, drilling a hole, writing an essay, doing a proof, viewing something under the microscope, etc) as well as a pencil-and-paper or mouse-and-screen test of some sort. Not just arcane reading and math.
  16.  Those who don’t meet the mark should obviously be advised as to what their options are, and those options should be available and well-funded, whatever they might be.
  17. We should strike a balance between having kids go to their walk-to neighborhood schools and having truly integrated schools where each school has a mix of kids of all ethnic groups and incomes. How to do that, exactly , under our current mega-segregated urban patterns, is beyond me. The superhighways and redlinings of the last 80 years are not going to be overcome overnight, but having kids ride for hours to charter schools where there is no neighborhood connection – that’s not the answer.
  18. Anything I left out?

Strange Events at Dunbar SHS

Dunbar SHS has been in the news a lot recently. Erich Martel, a history teacher punitively transferred from Wilson, has dug deeply into the record, and has written the following:

[Attachment(s) from Erich Martel included below] 

Dunbar’s Decline Began Long Before Rhee and Continued Under Her

by Erich Martel
Dunbar HS has been in the news.  Supt Janey’s and Chancellor’s Rhee’s actions regarding Dunbar do not tell a simple hero – villain story.  Mostly, they reveal how tests and data can be adjusted to give the appearance of improvement and that students continue to receive diplomas that do not represent mastery of DCPS subject standards. The data from Dunbar HS are typical of those in many of our high schools.
For several decades, students have been allowed to graduate from DCPS high schools like Dunbar without meeting mandatory requirements in core subject matter. Standardized tests occasionally reveal, if only approximately, how great the gulf between image and reality is.  This commentary grew out of an attempt to address the following questions, which Colbert King’s article on Dunbar HS brought to mind:
1) How could DCPS officials say that “70% of the class of 2007 were expected to attend college,” when two years earlier grade 10 SAT9 tests revealed that over 90% received Below Basic scores in math and over 65% received Below Basic scores in reading?
2) Miracle or Mirage: How was the following possible:
April 2005:  SAT9 Grade 10 Math:  no students scored advanced; 3 students scored proficient;
April 2006:  DC CAS Grade 10 Math: 5 students scored advanced; 58 students scored proficient.
Hiding or attempting to manipulate reality always has consequences:  a few benefit; most pay a price.
Erich Martel
Social Studies
Phelps ACE HS
(In January 2008, I was the WTU representative on the Quality School Review Team that visited Dunbar HS, a step that was preliminary to the chancellor’s restructuring decision under NCLB)
1)  Posted data on the OSSE site are incomplete
2) What do truancy and graduation rate data show?
3)  Dunbar’s SAT9 and DCCAS results I:  Miracle or Mirage on NJ Ave.? (See attachment, sheet 1)
4)  Dunbar’s SAT9 and DCCAS results II:  Miracle or Mirage on NJ Ave.? (See attachment, sheet 1)
5) Graduation: How is it that “70% of [the Dunbar class of 2007] were expected to attend college”?
6)  Correlation of Graduation Numbers and Grade 10 SAT9 Results
7)  In-house Alteration of Students’ Records
8) Enrollment Decline at Dunbar HS (attachment, sheet 2)
9) Student Records Audit at Dunbar HS, 2002-03
1)  Posted data on the OSSE site are incomplete, probably due to the failure of DCPS – and charters – to provide them.
For example:
a) Truancy data are available for only four years:  2003-04 to 2006-07 (Attachment, sheet 1, columns J & K);
b) Average daily attendance data are available for only 2009-10 (Sheet 1, column L);
c) Graduation rate data are available for only 2008-09 and 2009-10 (Sheet 1, Column M) (Columns E & I show the senior completion rates: number of June graduates divided by the number of seniors on the October OSSE enrollment count, 8 months earlier)
2) What do truancy and graduation rate data show?
a) Truancy at Dunbar went from 18.39% in 2003-04 (the year before Janey arrived) to 16.68% (his first year); the almost doubled to 29.99% in 2005-06 before climbing to 42.86% in his last year.
c) The graduation rate dropped from 81.7% in 2008-09 to 74.7% in 2009-10.
Was that Bedford’s fault? Those rates do not report that the majority of the students needed Credit Recovery and/or summer school to pass one or more courses needed for graduation.
The real test of graduation validity:  How many graduates who enrolled in colleges or professional schools:
i.  Needed to take non-credit remedial courses before moving on to credit-bearing courses?
ii. Lasted for at least one semester?    …. for two semesters?
3)  Dunbar’s SAT9 and DCCAS results I:  Miracle or Mirage? (See attachment, sheet 1)
a) Between April 1999 to April 2005 only 22 Dunbar 10th graders (out of 1,564 tested; not including the Pre-Engineering Academy) received scores of Advanced or Proficient on the SAT9 Math.
In April 2005, the last year of the SAT9, only 3 10th grade students scored Proficient (no one scored Advanced).
Yet, one year lated, April 2006, the first year of the DC CAS, 5 scored Advanced & 58 scored Proficient, a number  almost 3 times greater than the total (22) of the previous seven years.
b)  That dramatic increase occurred at the same two years that truancy jumped from 16.68% to 29.99%.
c)  The number of Adv & Prof scores then dropped during Janey’s last year (06-07), down in 07-08 (Rhee’s first year), up in 08-09, and down again in 09-10.
4)  Dunbar’s SAT9 and DCCAS results II:  Miracle or Mirage? (See attachment, sheet 1)
a)  In April 2005, 206 Dunbar 10th graders (out of 227 tested; not including the Pre-Engineering Academy) received scores of Below Basic on the SAT9 Math; one year later, April 2006, it dropped to 82, rose in 2007 to 98, fell to 72, then 61 and finally 38 in 2010 (under Bedford).
5) Graduation: How is it possible that “70% of [the Dunbar class of 2007] were expected to attend college”? (Colbert King, Washinton Post, 12/18/10).
Consider:  According to the OSSE enrollment audit, the Dunbar HS class of 2007 (seniors, including 25 Pre-Engineering seniors) numbered 223 students.
Two years earlier, in April 2005, the tenth graders of the future Class of 2007 produced the following results on the SAT9:
Math (Total:  227 students):  attachment:  sheet 1
Advanced:  0 students
Proficient:  3 students (or 1.32%)
Basic:   18 students (7.93%)
Below Basic:  206 students (90.75%)
Reading (Total:  234 students); attachment:  sheet 3
Advanced:  0 students
Proficient:  4 students (or 1.71%)
Basic:   75 students (32.05%)
Below Basic:  155 students (66.24%)
Recall what the four performance levels are supposed to mean (source:  “Stanford 9 Special Report:  Performance Standard Scores,” Harcourt Brace Educational Measurement, 1997):
Advanced: “signifiies superior academic performance”
Proficient: “denotes solid academic performance”
Basic: “denotes partial mastery” (emphasis added)
Below Basic:  “signifies less than partial mastery”
In June 2007, Dunbar HS had 171 graduates for a senior completion rate of 76.7% (171 graduates / 223 seniors).
Assuming that these were the top students who took the SAT9 two years earlier, the class of 2007 included only 3 students who were showed “solid academic achievement” in math and only 4 in reading.  Of the 171, only 18 had shown “partial mastery” in math, while 75 had shown “partial mastery” in reading.
Of that 171, 70% (120 students) were “expected to attend college.”  Thus, leaving aside the 51 students (30%) not expected to attend college, the 120 who [were] expected to attend college showed the following performance two years earlier as tenth graders:
In Reading:
– 0 showed “superior academic performance”
– 4 showed “solid academic achievement”;
– 75 showed “partial mastery”;
– 41 showed “less than partial mastery”
In Math:
– 0 showed “superior academic performance” 

– 3 showed “solid academic achievement”;
– 18 showed “partial mastery”;
– 99 showed “less than partial mastery”
6.  Correlation of Graduation Numbers and Grade 10 SAT9 Results
By the end of the 3rd Advisory or marking period, when students take the SAT9 (since 2006, the DC CAS), they have completed or should have completed Algebra I and Geometry.  How likely is it that 99 out120 students who showed less than partial mastery in grade 10 math were likely to overcome that deficit and master Algebra II/ Trigonometry or mastery of the elements of four years of English and writing skills?
Undoubtedly, some students managed to improve over the remaining two years.  By the same token, however, the depressing anti-academic attitudes that hamper teaching and learning could very easily have led some students who did well in grade 10 to lose interest.  In fact, most of the students required easier summer school classes to meet graduation requirements.
7.  In-house Alteration of Students’ Records
As the review of student academic records at Dunbar in 2002-03 concluded ( and below) “the opportunity for tampering was greatly enhanced and the reliability of the students’ records was questionable.” Despite recommendations of a Student Records Management Task Force (August 2003), no systemic steps were taken to ensure that student records were secure against internal tampering. That was revealed in Wilson HS’s Class of 2006, when approximately 200 of the 420 seniors listed on the June graduation day program had not completed their mandatory requirements.  It is not known whether the DC Inspector General’s report of the audit of Wilson HS graduation records led Supt. Janey to tighten procedures in other high schools ( ).
8.   Enrollment Decline at Dunbar HS (attachment, sheet 2)
In order to understand the decline in enrollment in Dunbar HS, one must factor out the grade 9 increases, beginning in 2006-07, when 9th grades in high schools began to increase as junior high schools were transformed into middle schools.
Dunbar’s total enrollment dropped from 1070 in 2002-03 to 913 in 2006-07 (adjusted to 887) in Supt Janey’s last year.  The October 2009 adjusted enrollment (factoring out the grade 9 increase) is 664, down by more than 200 since Chancellor Rhee took over.
9. Student Records Audit at Dunbar HS, 2002-03
Following the revelations of altered student records at Wilson HS in June 2002, DCPS contracted with Gardiner Kamya Inc. to conduct reviews of 59 students’ transcripts and supporting documentation in each DCPS high school.  The following is Dunbar HS’s report.  It is posted on the dcpswatch website, because DCPS officials did not post it.



MARCH 30, 2003 (End of Field Work)
July 17, 2003 (DC PS Response)
September 22, 2003 (Report Submitted)

Submitted by:
Gardiner, Kamya & Associates, P.C.
1717 K Street, NW Suite 601
Washington, DC 20036


  1. Internal controls (Procedure #1, Page 7)
    The school did implement the grade verification process mandated by the DCPS. However, due to the state of the student records and the results of the procedures detailed below, we conclude that internal controls with respect to student grades were ineffective and there was no assurance that such grades were accurately reflected in the student records.
  2. Confidentially maintained (Procedure #2, Page 9)
    The procedure was completed without exception. [Comment:  This means that all alterations were done by those with legal access to student records]
  3. Completeness of Cumulative and Electronic files (Procedure #3, Page 9)
    1. Cumulative Files
      Eighteen files in our sample of 59 were incomplete. Two files were missing. Some of the incomplete files were missing more than one item. The missing items were as follows: 

      1. It is the school’s policy to create a Letter of Understanding for all students in grades 9 -12. However, the school could not provide a Letter of Understanding for 14 students in our sample;
      2. Two student’s file did not contain a transcript;
      3. Three students’ files did not contain a 9th grade report card;
      4. Six students’ files did not contain a report card;
      5. One student’s file did not contain either a 9th or 11th grade report card;
      6. One student did not have a 10th grade report card in his/her file.
    2. Electronic Files
      The school could not provide electronic data (COHI and SIS-HIST) for six students in our sample. Consequently, we could not determine the completeness of those files.
  4. Consistency (Procedure #4, Page 9)
    The school could not provide the teachers’ scan sheets for 31 of the 59 student files in our sample. In addition, 19 students had transferred in. Scan sheets were not available for these students. Also, the school did not provide report cards for 11 students, and two students’ file did not include a transcript. Of the records available for our review, we noted the following: 

    1. Two (2.0) credits were reported on the transcript of one student (for Army Jr. ROTC). The report card reported 1.0 credit.
  5. Accuracy (Procedure #5, Page 10)
    1. Carnegie Units and Letters of Understanding
      1. The transcripts of three students were not consistent with their Letters of Understanding as follows:
        1. One student’s transcript reported a credit of 1.0 for “Art 1 “. However, the Letter of Understanding reported a credit of 0.5 for the same course. Also, the transcript reported zero credits for electives. The Letter of Understanding reported 0.5 credits;
        2. One student’s transcript reported a credit of 1.0 for “Adapt Health and PE”. However, the Letter of Understanding did not report this credit; and
        3. One student’s transcript reported a credit of 2.0 for Army Jr. ROTC. However, the Letter of Understanding awarded a credit of 1.0.
      2. We could not determine whether classes taken and credits earned by 15 students were in accordance with DCPS Carnegie Unit requirements for the following reasons:
        1. Two student’s file did not contain a transcript;
        2. One student’s file contained a Letter of Understanding that was not completed by a counselor. In addition, the credits had not been properly calculated;
        3. The school could not provide a Letter of Understanding for 14 students;
      3. The Letters of Understanding in our sample did not report hours earned for community service.
    2. Mathematical accuracy of credits
      The school could not provide report cards for 11 students. In addition, the transcript of one student reported 2.0 credits awarded for Army Jr. ROTC, a one-year course while the report card showed 1.0 credit for this course.
    3. Grade changes
      The school could not provide electronic records for 6 students. The procedure was completed with respect to the remaining students without exception.
    4. Missing grades
      The procedure was completed without exception.
    5. Independent studies
      This school does not offer independent studies.
    6. Transfer credit
      The procedure was completed without exception.
  6. Tampering (Procedure #6, Page 11)
    Of the 59 student records included in our sample: 

    1. Twenty files were incomplete;
    2. The school could not provide scan sheets for 31 students;
    3. Scan sheets were not available for an additional 19 students who had transferred in;
    4. The school could not provide the electronic files for 6 students.
      We also noted that all administrative staff (i.e., principal, assistant principals, registrar and counselors) used the same password to gain read/write access to students’ electronic record. Because of these factors, the opportunity for tampering was greatly enhanced and the reliability of the students’ records was questionable.


Based on the procedures performed, we conclude that:

  1. Internal controls were inadequate;
  2. Student records were incomplete, inconsistent, inaccurate, and unreliable;
  3. We could not conclude with respect to tampering because a significant number of files selected for review were not made available to us.

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