kitchen table math, the sequel: leafy

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

leafy

Last week’s speech by Mitt Romney, in which he presented his education reform plan to a group of Latino leaders in Washington, drew attention mainly because he criticized teachers’ unions and endorsed private school vouchers. But those points were perfectly predictable for a Republican candidate and not especially newsworthy.

But another part of his plan that potentially veers far from the usual conservative talking points received almost no attention: Mr. Romney would give poor students and those with disabilities the right to attend any public or charter school in their state.

Romney's School Surprise
By JAMES E. RYAN
So, first of all, this is a NONPARTISAN BLOG. (I mean it!)

Second: given what I've been dealing with here in the leafy suburbs, I experienced a moment of glee, reading this. A couple of them. No one's gonna be happy to hear that out here in the leafy suburbs---

Ed, on the other hand, was grumpy: "Obama could never get away with that!"

True.
... Mr. Romney’s proposal would target the real source of educational inequality in this country: school district boundaries, which wall off good school systems from failing ones. The grossest inequalities in educational opportunity today exist between school districts, not inside them.
White schools good, black schools bad: people take this as a given, and talk of busing is back. (Folks are really not gonna like talk of busing out here in the leafy suburbs, and, by the way, I agree.)

No one seems to understand what is actually happening inside suburban schools. Certainly no one seems to have absorbed the evidence that good teachers are everywhere:
...there was no relationship between a school’s demographics and its number of high- or low-performing teachers: 26 percent of math teachers serving the poorest of students had high scores, as did 27 percent of teachers of the wealthiest.
Teacher Quality Widely Diffused, Ratings Indicate By Fernanda Santos and Robert Gebeloff February 24, 2012
Mitt Romney can send urban kids to the suburbs; I hope he does.

But he better make sure they've got money for tutors.

News flash: my own extremely well-funded suburban school district is going to be implementing a rigorous and enriching 21st century curriculum.

28 comments:

momof4 said...

There is widespread refusal to acknowledge the unfortunate fact that the best way to improve schools (per test scores)is to have better students/community values. The leafy suburbs have lots of bright kids, whose bright, well-educated and motivated parents will demand a certain level of school behavior and academic achievement - and provide tutoring if necessary. The schools are also likely to have really weak curriculum and ineffective/inefficient instructional methods, but bright kids with lots of home resources are likely to achieve in spite of this (cue tutors). I should say that my kids' experiences at the HS level have been very good, largely because of the sorting; real honors and AP levels. My kids also left ES-MS while there was still homogeneous grouping and more solid curriculum (real math etc).

BTW:Scarsdale, NY has responded to parent pressure and switched to Singapore Math; Montgomery County, MD has thrown in the towel and signed on with Pearson's (book publisher)latest idiocy.

Second BTW, MoCo's cherished, decades-old socioeconomic integration program hopes to fix low SES achievement, but it also spreads bad attitudes to a wider population. So, no, I don't see moving urban kids to the suburbs as any real solution.

SteveH said...

I'm not sure why this is such a big deal. Michigan already allows students to cross town lines if there are openings. I don't think there is transportation, however. I understand that they will open up more opportunities for charter schools, but I don't know the details. I'm also hearing about freeing up choice options in other states.

In our state, the onerous charter school law (which basically prevents high expectation charter schools that attract the most willing students) is now being by-passed by Mayoral Academies. (Educators don't like schools that "cream", but they don't mind schools that "sludge-off" the bottom students.) The Mayoral Academies are being fought against by the education establishment ... and losing. This isn't just about allowing kids to travel somewhere else. It's about offering choices where they currently live.

There is a huge demand by desperate urban parents for something else even if it offers only a glimmer of hope. Others, like Ravitch, seem to be desperate to claim that the experiment had failed long before it has been given a chance to succeed.

To some extent, Romney and Obama don't matter. Nobody is completely against choice. It's not an argument between CCSS or choice. We have standards for better or worse, and in spite of standards, urban parents are desperate to get out, and I don't mean out of town.

States are now driving change. The president can perhaps accelerate change, but I'm not pinning my hopes on the views of the next president. RttT is perhaps forcing more choice, but it appears that choice is reaching a critical mass in spite of top-down pressure. We will never go back. Gone are the days when people referred to vouchers as just allowing rich people to send their kids to private schools.

Then again, local public schools have the home court advantage. I like our high school. With 1700 kids and three levels of classes (plus AP), they are able to offer a lot to each level. The difficulty is the lower schools with their turf control over pedagogy and curriculum, and their unwillingness to separate students by ability and results. They are not pressured by college expectations and only slightly pressured by the needs of high schools.

Jen said...

There are sludging off charters? Please link! Even those that take seemingly everyone at first tend to have very high attrition rates during the first couple of years. That is, they may begin with one plan and end with a different.

The catch in these plans is noted in SteveH's comment. Most of these plans do NOT provide transportation and require that the school chosen have "openings." Those two things pretty much guarantee that this isn't a pipeline to the leafy suburbs, but a plan that might affect a handful of kids in any given area.

I do agree with the point about teachers. Trade the teachers from a high-achieving, higher SES district with those in a low-acheiving, low SES district and see what happens.

I can promise you that scores are likely to be generally unaffected. I'd guess though that more people who went to the less well-financed schools would be hunting for new jobs before the year was out.

cranberry said...

Massachusetts has a choice system. Districts opt into the system--they can even open certain grades to choice students.

http://finance1.doe.mass.edu/schoice/choice_map.pdf

You'll see that much of the state participates, with the exception of the schools along and within the Rte. 128. That could be due to traffic, as well as concerns about the program.

Once accepted into a grade, that student has the right to remain through high school graduation. The sending district pays tuition set by the state. Currently, it's about $5,000. It's not the full cost of "education per student," but as many of the costs are fixed (heat, light, transportation, administration, etc.), it can help a school's budget. Parents provide transportation. The sending district remains responsible for special ed costs.

If a school is under enrolled in certain grades, allowing students to "choice in" to the under-enrolled grades helps to balance the budget. It avoids the disruption of moving teachers around, or firing them, to deal with dips in enrollment. It allows schools which are good at education to educate more students.

We're in a good school district, but a few parents have chosen to use the choice option, mostly due to social concerns. Schools opt into receiving students, but they can't deny students the right to choose other districts.

If you look at the map, you'll also see that many districts both send and receive students. It isn't a one-way flow by any means.

SteveH said...

"There are sludging off charters? Please link!"

Ha, ha, ha! Schools don't call them that, but our original charter school law requires that new charters be approved by a board of public school educators, and they will not approve a school that sets high standards. The charters have to be different or unsusal. I did come across a comment once that said that charter schools are supposed to be for students who don't fit into a normal academic environment. That's why our state set up Mayoral Academies that didn't have to go through the normal approval process.

Catherine Johnson said...

So, no, I don't see moving urban kids to the suburbs as any real solution.

ditto, ditto, ditto

Ed and I have always had our thought experiment, which I call the student body swap:

Take the study body of Yonkers High School and swap it with the student body of Irvington High School and what happens?

Irvington student scores stay the same; Yonkers students do much worse.

Irvington students might do better in Yonkers, in fact --- possibly the students in the middle.

Catherine Johnson said...

The difficulty is the lower schools with their turf control over pedagogy and curriculum, and their unwillingness to separate students by ability and results.

I'm just now figuring this out.

It's not just that ed schools are running things, it's that K-6 is running things.

All around here, I'm seeing K-6 teachers move into administration and become superintendents and curriculum directors.

Didn't it used to be the other way around?

Weren't superintendents often people who had begun their careers teaching high school.

Jen said...

*All around here, I'm seeing K-6 teachers move into administration and become superintendents and curriculum directors.*

In my district it's traditionally been...gym teachers. I will say that not all of them have been bad, either. I suppose that knowing how to run a team and how to stack important things toward your better players isn't always bad.

Most of those administrators are/were far better than our current crop of one or two years (or none!) in the classroom, no education education at all, kids are widgets and teachers are machines administrators, though.

Jen said...

*"There are sludging off charters? Please link!"

Ha, ha, ha! Schools don't call them that, but our original charter school law requires that new charters be approved by a board of public school educators, and they will not approve a school that sets high standards. The charters have to be different or unsusal.*

Well, yes, charters are required to offer something that is "different" than what is already available. I've joked that I'd like to open a charter called "school like you think it should be" -- which would currently be very different than what's offered. But any theme seems to do for charter approval: "entrepreneurship" for instance, for a K-5 school that's starting out as a K-2. Hmmmm.

BUT, charters have to take and publish state tests, just like public schools. Charters have to be able to get teachers who will work for (usually) less than the public school teachers -- they aren't going to get those things done taking in kids that won't pay attention or need extra attention, kids with any but the easiest of IEPs, etc.

Besides, just the fact that your parent/guardian has to know enough to know about the charter and have enough energy, organization and follow through to register and enter a lottery is a form of "creaming."

The second form of creaming comes when they kick out kids who don't adhere to guidelines. Far easier to do in a charter. In our district, principals bonuses are in part determined by their suspension rate -- the fewer suspensions and disciplinary actions, the higher the bonus!

**Are these anti-robot iamges getting exponentially harder or am I losing vision?!**

SteveH said...

"All around here, I'm seeing K-6 teachers move into administration and become superintendents and curriculum directors."

Around here, it seems like there are two separate worlds; K-8 and high school. I don't see many cross-overs for teachers or administrators. I also see a curruculum and pedagogy wall between the two levels. It's only been in the last few years that our middle school has even atempted to line up a proper path in math to algebra in 8th grade and geometry in 9th grade; and properly prepare kids for Spanish II as freshmen in high school.

High schools have many real world driving forces, like getting kids to graduate or preparing them for college. This doesn't really exist in K-8. The state now requires subject certification in 7th and 8th grades, so it was interesting to see the conflicted mentality for those grades - a transition from fuzzy learning to one that uses textbooks and values (at least somewhat) knowledge and skills.

It's like two different worlds. It was terrible in the K-8 full inclusion, differentiated instruction, and fuzzy rubric world, but it is completely different in the three tier, (mostly) direct instuction, textbook using world of high school.

The difference is subject specialists and certification.

K9Sasha said...

Charters have to be able to get teachers who will work for (usually) less than the public school teachers -- they aren't going to get those things done taking in kids that won't pay attention or need extra attention, kids with any but the easiest of IEPs, etc.

Around here charter schools are required to take all comers. The charter school where I've taught for the last two years supports homeschooling families at all grade levels. How highly motivated these parents are, right? Wrong! Amazingly, head shakingly, wrong. To be clear, we have a percentage of highly engaged parents and students who do wonderful things, but that isn't the majority of the school. Most parents and students do just enough work to get by, and many students, even elementary age ones, are left to do schoolwork on their own. The parents are working, busy, or just can't be bothered. Then too, the local public schools refer students to the charter school who they otherwise would be kicking out onto the streets. It's true that we can, and do, kick students out more easily, but that isn't done nearly as much as you would expect. For one thing, as teachers we care about our students and worry what would happen to them if they were kicked out of our school. It may not be a good fit, but it's still often better than the alternative. The second reason teachers don't bring problem students to the administrator's attention more often is that teacher pay is directly tied to the number of students on our caseload. Kick out a student, or a whole family of students, and you get a smaller paycheck to live on.

K9Sasha said...

Charters have to be able to get teachers who will work for (usually) less than the public school teachers -- they aren't going to get those things done taking in kids that won't pay attention or need extra attention, kids with any but the easiest of IEPs, etc.

Around here charter schools are required to take all comers.

The charter school where I've taught for the last two years supports homeschooling families with kids at all grade levels. How highly motivated these parents are, right? Wrong! Amazingly, head shakingly, wrong. To be clear, we have a percentage of highly engaged parents and students who do wonderful things, but that isn't the majority of the school.

Most of our parents and students do just enough work to get by, and many students, even elementary age ones, are left to do schoolwork on their own. The parents are working, busy, or just can't be bothered.

Then too, the sponsoring school district, rather than simply expelling students from the regular schools, refers them to our charter school. These students don't tend to be the cream of the crop.

It's true that we can, and do, kick students out more easily than a typical neighborhood school, but it isn't done nearly as much as you would expect. As teachers we care about our students and worry what would happen to them if they were kicked out of our school. The school may not be a good fit, but it's still often better than the alternative.

Also, there are disincentives to kick students out. The administration thinks it reflects poorly on us as teachers, that we weren't doing our job well. And second, our pay is directly tied to the number of students on our caseload. Kick out a student, or a family of 3, 4, or 5 students, all of whom are on your caseload, and you get a smaller paycheck to live on.

I've also seen this same pattern of a charter school changing from one with a lofty goal to one that deals with the dregs of the student population at another local charter school sponsored by a different school district. It does explain why charter school test scores aren't higher, and in many cases are lower, than scores at the the regular schools.

Catherine Johnson said...

I've joked that I'd like to open a charter called "school like you think it should be"

THAT SHOULD BE THE NEW TAG LINE FOR KITCHEN TABLE MATH!!!!!

Jen said...

Hmmm, monetize (oh how I both love and loathe that word!) the blog by starting your own brand!

KTM Charter
school like you think it should be

Honestly? Stranger things have happened...

lgm said...

I am in a diverse district..we get the people from the boroughs who either move here or send their childen to live with the relatives to attend the 'better district', better as in there haven't been any knife fights recently. We had to open an alternative middle and high school to cope with the most disruptive. The per pupil cost is the same as sped, about 4x reg ed.

One of the biggest problems is that students who need remediation can't be placed in any grade level other than the one they aged into. Double period english and math in the middle school is not effective in remediating the consequences of not teaching them at their instructional level from preK on.

Second problem is the culture that sees no need to expect civilized behavior from children. As their parents put it at budget meetings: "My kid is a handful, he needs a 1:1 aide". Um, hm, he's not classified and he is not expected to be respectful and we'll handle that by hiring someone to babysit. Others beleive the family should have to pay for that aide since the parents are clearly absconding from their responsibilities, and want that done before prison.

lgm said...

I would also disagree with MR that the gross inequalities are not present within a school district. He needs to read Jay Matthews' book Class Struggle and understand the difference between honors and Regents and then pull the stats and see how many qualified students are denied admittance to honors. I know I'm not alone in knowing students who qualify for JHU CTY's AP courses, but won't be let in to AP or honors in their own district. I also know students who never received the necessary preparation because they were stuck in full inclusion. A tutor is simply essential for those who don't have a private school alternative.

Amy P said...

""My kid is a handful, he needs a 1:1 aide". Um, hm, he's not classified and he is not expected to be respectful and we'll handle that by hiring someone to babysit. Others beleive the family should have to pay for that aide since the parents are clearly absconding from their responsibilities, and want that done before prison."

1. Maybe the kid should be classified? Or, as Ross Greene (The Explosive Child, Lost at School) says, you don't need a diagnosis to have a problem, you just need a problem to have a problem.

2. Isn't it a bit much to expect parents to manage the behavior of children inside the school building while the parents are absent? You wouldn't expect the school to be able to manage the child's behavior at home?

Anne Dwyer said...

In my school district, it is K-5 only that is the problem. To be certified in anything other than elementary ed (i.e. to teach in a middle school or high school) you must major in the the subject and then do all the other stuff (student teach etc).

My experience has been that 6th grade here is where they start getting serious. They do a really good job of training the students to the students to be organized: every teacher uses the same system and you can even pay them to put the binder together for the first day of class.

My daughter is a freshman this year. Her academic subjects have been very rigorous. Even her regular geometry class was very good although too easy for her. Next year, she will be taking honors Algebra II. The main problem I have seen is teachers who go off on maternity leave. The subsitutes that they get are rarely very good.

We live in Michigan and we have two small high school in our district. (I would say town, but here school districts are not divided by towns. The township I live in has one main school district but students at the edges can belong to one of three other school districts....don't ask, I don't know and school district elections are a nightmare.) My daughter's high school is a school of choice as was her elementary and middle school. We get students who drive up from Detroit every day. Steve is right...it doesn't effect the Honors or AP classes.

We just approved a bond so the district can borrow to update on of the high schools. The other will be closed. This won't happen until after my daughter graduates.

lgm said...

I expect the child to be taught how to behave in public before s/he is sent to school. No biting, no fighting, no knifing etc. That is the parents' job, not the teachers'.

Amy P said...

"I expect the child to be taught how to behave in public before s/he is sent to school."

With that standard, some kids are never going to make it to school. In fact, we wouldn't even need a K-6 public school system if every parent parent were that effective with every child.

Catherine Johnson said...

Isn't it a bit much to expect parents to manage the behavior of children inside the school building while the parents are absent? You wouldn't expect the school to be able to manage the child's behavior at home?

Haven't read the thread, but parents definitely can't manage SPED kids' behavior from home.

You can raise a well-behaved 'typical' kid ---- but, even there, kids take their cues from other kids.

Of course, in that case what you see is different levels of good & bad behavior in different classrooms, depending on the teacher's skill at 'classroom management.'

Catherine Johnson said...

He needs to read Jay Matthews' book Class Struggle and understand the difference between honors and Regents and then pull the stats and see how many qualified students are denied admittance to honors.

Absolutely.

AmyP said...

"You can raise a well-behaved 'typical' kid ---- but, even there, kids take their cues from other kids."

At our kids' private school, there was a short-lived "Kindergarten Fight Club." Were all of those parents bad parents? Were they bad kids? Not at all.

I would blame parents who lawyer for their kids' bad behavior and who show disrespect for school rules, but otherwise, when a kid is at school, they're at school.

lgm said...

All I am advocating is civility. I want no criminal behavior on campus - no biting, no fighting, no knifing, no guns, no drug use, no drug sales - just as it would be if the child was taken to a store. I am not discussing special medical needs - just unparented children who are being brought up as in "Lord of the Flies". Don't read any more in to it.

Catherine Johnson said...

no biting, no fighting, no knifing, no guns, no drug use, no drug sales

That reminds me, years ago, back in Studio City ... the local public school was becoming well-known and was trying to attract more affluent parents to enroll their kids, etc.

We met with the principal (I think Jimmy was going to be enrolling?), and on the way into the school we saw a sign that said "If you see a gun, tell a teacher."

After we'd been in her office for a while, I told her that if she was trying to attract neighborhood parents, then a sign that said "If you see a gun, tell a teacher" posted at the entrance to the school probably wasn't the best advertisement.

She was surprised -- !

Hadn't even thought about it.

I thought that was pretty funny. This was a well-heeled white neighborhood with zero crime, and the local school had a sign about guns on the front door, and the principal thought that was a perfectly natural message to send to 5-year olds on the way into school ----

(She was a great principal - not criticizing. It was just funny.)

Allison said...

--It was terrible in the K-8 full inclusion, differentiated instruction, and fuzzy rubric world, but it is completely different in the three tier, (mostly) direct instuction, textbook using world of high school.

Is it different in the 3 tiers? Or just the top tier of the three tiers?

Here in the main two urban districts, Mpls and St. Paul, speaking just of the math instruction, if you're not in the top tier, it's a disaster.

You may have a textbook, you may have online curriculum, but you won't be taught from your grade level, wherever that was, because it's middle school or lower, and the law says you must teach the standards of the grade they are in, regardless of what they know. Whether the teachers CAN recognize that a student is lost or not, I don't know, because they are literally told they may not go back to remediate them. These students aren't being flunked (so they won't be allowed to not go forward) so whether they are being given direct or indirect instruction, it doesn't matter. They aren't learning.

I

SteveH said...

It's different in all three tiers, but it has an interesting effect. The school drove out all of the slackers from the lowest level. This contains only those who have special needs; they are well more than two years behind. The slackers in the middle College Prep level drive the better students into taking mostly honors and AP classes.

The high school is trying to isolate the problems. I will give them credit for that, but many of the problems they have to deal with started long ago and can really only be solved by the lower grades. The high school, however, seems to be unwilling to talk to the lower schools about these problems.

SteveH said...

I didn't have time to finish my comment below, but for math, it's not just a matter of seperating kids based on a proper level.

Our high school has gotten a lot of praise for its implementation of algebra classes with "labs", which help out kids with weaker skills. These are NOT the top tier kids. This lab helps a lot of kids, but it doesn't fix all of the damage done in the lower grades. The lab also keeps them from dealing with why these kids need the lab in the first place. That's why I've mentioned in the past that there seems to be a philosophy and curriculum wall between K-8 and high school. Long ago, I contacted the head of the math department at our high school (the one who started the lab classes) and tried to tell her about issues with Everyday Math. Her response was that the lower schools should not allow so many do-overs or some such thing. I think she just didn't what to confront that issue with the lower grades.