Posts Tagged ‘turn around’

Standing on the Corner

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Public school truancy begins a lot earlier than the public thinks. To overcome the barriers that make students opt to stand on the corner takes a lot of relentless effort.

Start with the small child who enters school unready, who moves from neighborhood to neighborhood, whose parent has no time for her. This is poverty–16% of the nation according to the latest Census Bureau supplementary data measures. Until hardship is overcome and families are stabilized, the school district that keeps accurate attendance data and employs personnel to assure a child’s on time daily attendance (home visits, clothes for children, doctor and dental appointments, family counseling services) provides the support.

If the student makes it through elementary school, middle school can be the truancy breaking point. On top of the problems that an elementary student faced, once an adolescent reaches puberty it takes tremendous strength to not be distracted by the desire to belong. Lack of tutors for difficult subjects and fewer counselors available to oversee student progress means attendance can drop again. It’s easier to stand on the corner than seek help.

The final hurdle is high school. Especially at schools in low-income neighborhoods, under-performing students have insufficient support to improve in high school, prevent moving one from one school to another, avoid homelessness and other family problems. It is easy to become the hidden student and finally the drop out. If the school district does not have budgeted funds to work with these “at risk” students, they disappear and become the unprepared jobless. See the data released Tuesday, November 15, 2011, from Stanford University in California that shows more proof of the demographics of low-income areas in large cities in the nation.

Is that what the United States wants?

Nowadays, the problem is not loss of manufacturing corporations in the U.S. The issue is production has improved with automated machines that need fewer humans to keep them going, i.e. fewer jobs. The people that keep their jobs have graduated from high school and have, at minimum, vocational technological training. An entire group of workers, aged 18-64, now jobless, were high school dropouts who didn’t even complete a General Education Development (GED) exam in order to receive a high school equivalency diploma.

Another large group of jobless workers has been caused by the housing market debacle which has led to the fall-off in construction. If the infrastructure jobs bill in Congress doesn’t pass, there will be another group that is under-educated and that can’t move into the high tech jobs that support the new manufacturing of the day.

What the government can do right now is pass the jobs bill for three reasons. One, to give a wage to construction workers so that the poverty rate falls. Second, low-income families will have time to support the education of their children from pre-school onward. The school can only do so much to keep students in the classroom. Three, teachers will be rehired in the school to help students learn.

Finally, the four states that have just been notified that they received U.S. Department of Education waivers to redo their plans to turn around programs should stress the science, math, and technology curriculum to prepare students for the workplace.

Standing on the corner, waiting for a job, is not fun.

“The time has come…

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

To talk of many things”-Lewis Carroll. But talk about the lack of revision to ESEA (NCLB in its last iteration) is dominating the education world in September 2011.

rural school and district on Lopez Island, Washington

rural school and district on Lopez Island, Washington

The No Child Left Behind Act- President George W. Bush’s title for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)– was first authorized in 1965 under President Lyndon Johnson and revised every 5 years until the last alteration in 2001. Since then, all calls for adjustments have hit the high Congressional wall of inaction.

Who’s talking? National teachers’ unions NEA and AFT advocate change. The Council of Chief State School Officers exhorts Congress. Members of the National Governor’s Association have been in the forefront.

All across the country non-union teacher’s groups are the biggest voices: Educators4Excellence in New York; Teacher Plus in Boston, Indianapolis, and Chicago; Center for Teaching Quality in North Carolina, Denver, and Seattle to name a few.

What did the 2001 act provide? The legislation is lengthy and detailed. The sections on which most talk centers are “Improve the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged” and “Improving Basic Programs…” which delineate the main provisions of the act. Next, qualifications for teachers and paraprofessionals led to time-consuming paperwork to assure each teacher was “highly qualified.” Also, Innovative Programs morphed into advocacy for charter schools. The section “Improving Basic Programs” outlined the actions to show “adequate yearly progress” in reading and mathematics: in brief, each state must teach to its curriculum standards and provide outcomes on benchmark exams which would lead to 100% school proficiency in reading and math by 2014.

Why is NCLB so despised? All of these mandated programs are underfunded. As has been declared in this blog many times, it was clear to most teachers and administrators from the beginning that to have every student in a state reach grade level proficiency in two subjects by 2014 was a preposterous goal. The cost of upgrading curriculum standards and providing tests that give a single score by which to judge students is a contentious argument.

The ESEA legislation should have been revised by Congress in 2005-2006. It wasn’t. President Obama laid out revisions for Congress to take up in 2009 and March 2011. No go. In August 2011, the U.S. Department of Education used a provision in the legislation to offer waivers to the 2014 proficiency benchmark. States that could show consistent improvement in the four big administration priorities for ESEA revision would be authorized to alter their programs. The administration’s priorities are 1) working state data systems; 2) turn-around plans for low-performing schools; 3) improve experienced vs. new teacher distribution in low-performing schools; 4) boost curriculum standards in the state.

To create jobs in a stricken economy and to provide a further push to Congress, President Obama in his speech on September 8, 2011, recommended $60 billion to be divided among states to save teachers’ jobs and fix the infrastructure of school property. The inference was also to finish ESEA revisions.

Representative John Kline, Education Committee, commented on the high cost and more regulation, calling the program a teacher’s union bailout. Representative George Miller and Senator Tom Harkin of their respective Education Committees were more enthusiastic. So far Congressional revisions have been offered to bolster charter schools, eliminate forty programs under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Education (like the Star Schools Distance Learning Program), and flexible shift of federal funds (like Title 1) from poverty budget lines to special education.

What to our surprise! John Kline’s House Education committee has passed a vote on the charter schools revisions yesterday, September 13, 2011. On to a full house vote.

On the other hand, teacher’s organizations look for revision in school and teacher accountability rules and evaluation; stability in curriculum standards; and testing that leads to better learning rather than a score by which to berate teachers and students when the hurdle is not vaulted even though students may have leaped higher.

The time has come….

Vouchers Cross the Lips Again

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

You’d think the anxiety about debt, deficit, revenue, and spending cuts would leave school vouchers, one of the bugaboos of public education, to molder in the corner behind the trash containers.

But, no, the Ryan budget proposal let the V word out when explaining his plan for Medicare revision. It is supposed to save Medicare, but like all voucher plans, the story has more than one ending.

Recall the ruckus to settle a budget for the entire United States government (only until October 2011)? The Obama administration negotiators actually held onto a good number of education programs ready to be hooked and tossed into the education budget garbage bin by conservative players in the game. Notably, Title I grants, special education state grants, Race to the Top (RTTT) competitive-grant programs, Investing in Innovation (i3), Head Start, Pell Grants, and Promise Neighborhoods Initiative remained, mostly unscathed.

But, House Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) and his cadre, slipped in a measure to reinstate the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship program, euphemism for vouchers of up to $12000 for a low-income student to attend a private school. OK, the measure does provide some aid for Washington, D.C. public and charter schools also.

Did you figure out why House of Representative billion dollar slashers would put funds back into an education program? The ideological love for parochial school education and “choice” are the often heard reasons. Also “competition” for funds would force schools to improve academic achievement in order to keep funds on the school district balance sheets. Back to the school system as “marketplace.”

Three school systems in the U. S. have passed and maintained legislation to provide student vouchers, also called “tuition tax credits” by Ronald Reagan and “school choice” by economist Milton Friedman. Milwaukee-1990, Cleveland-1995, and the entire state of Florida-1999 have voucher programs touted as an alternative to help to low-income students attend private and parochial schools with better academic success.

As yet, after 25 years, studies of schools with voucher students have not shown significant gains in student achievement, the main goal in school reform efforts. However, parents who apply for the vouchers for their children cite the desire for schools where students behave and where students graduate from high school. In D.C. students in voucher programs do have better graduation rates than students in public schools.

Five talking points on vouchers are promoted on the National Education Association (NEA) website. In brief, 1) as stated above, vouchers don’t mean gains in student achievement. 2) Voucher schools have almost no accountability in place for the public funds that are siphoned off. 3) Vouchers don’t reduce the cost of public school education, but ask tax payers to fund two systems, public and private/parochial. 4) Parents must search around to find real “choice” in private and parochial schools which, for example, maintain exceedingly high admissions requirements and fees far above the voucher sum. 5) Surveys show that the public prefers spending their scarce taxes to improve the schools in the public system.

An article by Mike Winerip, August 8, 2010, from the New York Times examined public schools in Boston who applied for and are instigating turn-around programs which use tax dollars exactly as stated above. As most programs in which improvement begins to show significant results, these schools have implemented teacher leadership, teacher training, smaller classes, ongoing staff development, collaboration, and adequate resources to support the needs of the variety of children. It is difficult, relentless work to assure failing schools improve.

Furthermore, for anyone interested in justice for all,

“We have to be careful not to succumb to this nonsense that a public system is inherently flawed and that therefore we have to turn to the marketplace for solutions. I’ve never in my entire life seen any evidence that the competitive free market, unrestricted, without a strong counterpoise within the public sector, will ever dispense decent medical care, sanitation, transportation, or education to the people. It’s as simple as that.”

–Jonathan Kozol, author of “Savage Inequalities” and “Amazing Grace.”

On Not Vouching for Vouchers

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

You’d think the anxiety about debt, deficit, revenue, and spending cuts would leave school vouchers, one of the bugaboos of public education, to molder in the corner behind the trash containers.

Recall the ruckus to settle a budget for the entire United States government (only until October 2011) in which the Obama administration negotiators actually held onto a good number of education programs ready to be hooked and tossed into the education budget garbage bin by conservative players in the game. Notably, Title I grants, special education state grants, Race to the Top (RTTT) competitive-grant programs, Investing in Innovation (i3), Head Start, Pell Grants, and Promise Neighborhoods Initiative remained, mostly unscathed.

But, House Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) and his cadre, slipped in a measure to reinstate the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship program, euphemism for vouchers of up to $12000 for a low-income student to attend a private school. OK, the measure does provide some aid for Washington, D.C. public and charter schools also.

Did you figure out why House of Representative billion dollar slashers would put funds back into an education program? The ideological love for parochial school education and “choice” are the often heard reasons. Also “competition” for funds would force schools to improve academic achievement in order to keep funds on the school district balance sheets. Back to the school system as “marketplace.”

Three school systems in the U. S. have passed and maintained legislation to provide student vouchers, also called “tuition tax credits” by Ronald Reagan and “school choice” by economist Milton Friedman. Milwaukee-1990, Cleveland-1995, and the entire state of Florida-1999 have voucher programs touted as an alternative to help to low-income students attend private and parochial schools with better academic success.

As yet, after 25 years, studies of schools with voucher students have not shown significant gains in student achievement, the main goal in school reform efforts. However, parents who apply for the vouchers for their children cite the desire for schools where students behave and where students graduate from high school. In D.C. students in voucher programs do have better graduation rates than students in public schools.

Five talking points on vouchers are promoted on the National Education Association (NEA) website. In brief, 1) as stated above, vouchers don’t mean gains in student achievement. 2) Voucher schools have almost no accountability in place for the public funds that are siphoned off. 3) Vouchers don’t reduce the cost of public school education, but ask tax payers to fund two systems, public and private/parochial. 4) Parents must search around to find real “choice” in private and parochial schools which, for example, maintain exceedingly high admissions requirements and fees far above the voucher sum. 5) Surveys show that the public prefers spending their scarce taxes to improve the schools in the public system.

Linked here is an article by Mike Winerip, August 8, 2010, from the New York Times which examined public schools in Boston who applied for and are instigating turn-around programs which use tax dollars exactly as stated above. As most programs in which improvement begins to show significant results, these schools have implemented teacher leadership, teacher training, smaller classes, ongoing staff development, collaboration, and adequate resources to support the needs of the variety of children. It is difficult, relentless work to assure failing schools improve.

Furthermore, for anyone interested in justice for all,

“We have to be careful not to succumb to this nonsense that a public system is inherently flawed and that therefore we have to turn to the marketplace for solutions. I’ve never in my entire life seen any evidence that the competitive free market, unrestricted, without a strong counterpoise within the public sector, will ever dispense decent medical care, sanitation, transportation, or education to the people. It’s as simple as that.”

–Jonathan Kozol, author of “Savage Inequalities” and “Amazing Grace.”

For more on school vouchers, google Rethinking Schools, for a slew of articles.

When budgets are resolved, what do schools take up next?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Suppose the California legislature agrees to resolve the most current budget deficit of $25.4 billion as of January 11, 2011. California’s Governor Jerry Brown presented his administration’s budget this week. It includes big budget cuts (but not to K-12 budgets), as well as temporary tax extensions to be voted on in the Spring.

Suppose the California legislature agrees to revise the state and local tax system which had become so unfair that Proposition 13 passed easily in 1978. The fiscal trouble that existed then has increased many times over as the state and local governments vie for revenues.

Suppose  California citizens agree that all services cannot be paid for individually or by initiative.  Some, like fire protection, police protection, infrastructure, parks, recreation programs, and schools are better provided by communal funds.

If all that were agreed, some schools are still found in very poor areas-both urban and rural. Those schools need to be turned around. It’s not easy.

Mass Insight Education and Research Institute has laid out the steps to take. See www.massinsight.org.

Matteson School District (SD 162) in Illinois under Superintendent Dr. Blondean Y. Davis has given an overview of steps taken to improve student success. See www.edline.net/pages/Matteson_School_District_162

Success For All is used often, especially in eastern urban areas, as a specific reform for reading/language arts.  SFA lays out school-wide steps to make sure students learn to read and understand the meaning of text.  See www.sfa.org.

Edsource’s February 2010 report “Gaining Ground in the Middle Grades: Why Some Schools Do Better” explains steps that help adolescent students succeed.  See www.edsource.org.

Suppose schools began to turn around. What’s the next step?

Testing and the tests schools use is a huge complaint, whether the scores are used to assess student success or to evaluate teachers or to determine school quality.

The first problem is the kind of test: standardized, criterion referenced, short formative tests several times a year, one summative test a year; tests provided with software.  Who decides which kind of test to use: the state, the local school board, the federal Department of Education, the publishing companies of the United States?

Here’s another list of questions to resolve: which standards are tested; what do tests measure; how do results affect promotion, teacher evaluation, and accreditation for higher education?  See the Public Broadcasting Service’s Frontline program for an in-depth analysis of testing issues.

In education, the biggest concern is the quality of each school.  Does a single test determine all of the school qualities that establish success?

One statement can be made: once the budget crisis is resolved, state departments of education must analyze the tests they use. Successful schools depend on the steps taken.

Who’s going to take the tiger by the tail, the bull by the horns, or shoulder Sisyphus’ burden?