kitchen table math, the sequel: If you don't live in New York

Sunday, March 23, 2014

If you don't live in New York

Our airwaves are saturated with unbelievably effective pro-charter ads (from Charters Work).

This one in particular is riveting; I watch it all the way through every time it comes on. It's like a little mini-narrative -- not so much on first viewing, but on repeats. You get to know the kids; you know the sequence you're going to see them in; and pretty soon you start to feel a build-up of dread each time you watch, knowing what's coming next, which is that the beautiful children will disappear one-by-one, and the little boy looking at you over the top of his spectacles will be the first to go.

It's like a terrifying work of dystopian sci fi, for pete's sake.

Or one of those horrifying news clips like the Challenger explosion that you watch every time it's shown, hoping the ending will be different this time.

Watch this ad ten times in ten days and you'll see what I mean.



28 comments:

SteveH said...

It properly tries to put de Blasio on the defensive. Hopefully, this process will force the discussion onto what the real issues are.

From elsewhere:

" the parents are suing de Blasio for violating their children's civil rights in federal court"

So, are civil rights individual or group-based? You have to watch out for groups who claim to have the authority to define and protect your civil rights. It doesn't look good when you fight against those people you claim to protect. That only leaves you in the position of defending group rights and the idea that you're the only ones who get to decide.

Jen said...

http://insideschools.org/blog/item/1000359-vanishing-students-at-harlem-success

It is an interesting numbers game, at the very least!

SteveH said...

" "Charter schools have an obligation to serve all comers," Sternberg said. Those that failed to do so, he added, could see their charters revoked."

As they should, but is that the reason de Blasio wants to shut these schools down? Can this be done for regular public schools if they fail to serve all comers? Do public schools serve students just by giving them a chair and a desk? Charter schools could do that.


"...leading critics to charge that the school may push out low achieving or difficult students."

"May." You would think they would have more data than that. I can see the driving forces and problems, but what about the students who stay at the charter school? Let's flip this around. What about all of the bright public school students who are only "served" by being offered a chair next to kids who cause problems or just don't care? Are those "critics" advocating for these kids?

Getting past the numbers game, one can evaluate the philosophy of education and motivation. Some try really hard to show that choice is worse than no choice. Are all affluent parents who pay to have their kids go to another school just plain stupid or elitist? How about homeschoolers? But when urban parents want to make the same good or bad choice of sending their kids to charter schools, many don't think they have the ability to determine if school A or school B is better for their child.

In terms of civil rights, the government has to either give all parents choice or take it away from everyone.

Jen said...

"In terms of civil rights, the government has to either give all parents choice or take it away from everyone."

I'm not sure that you can have choice for all and appropriate learning situations for all, at least not how we're set up currently. It's very easy to remove kids from charters. It happens all the time. It especially happens at "key" grades. That is, schools ditch kids after 2nd grade, because "high-stakes" testing begins in 3rd grade. Harlem Children's Village effectively dismissed an entire grade's worth of students when they started. It seems pretty clear that they didn't continue to use the same criteria for letting kids in that led to them ditching an entire class, after that.

There are many ways that a school can give the illusion of accepting all comers, without actually doing so. Requiring essays, interviews, repeated visits to fulfill parts of the application process, etc. are all ways to insure that you get students that you want, rather than what would come to you by "choice."

The biggest problem is that they are trying to take only the kids who cost the least to educate. It's the kids who need all sorts of services, aides, etc. that run up the per capita cost of education in a public district. It's like trying to run a health insurance business when your neighboring company can pick and choose their clients and you get everyone they deem too expensive. As your rates go us, your healthier patients will leave and soon...well, you'll certainly not have enough money to fulfill your obligations.

Catherine Johnson said...

Charters are public schools. Period. The only reason Bill diBlasio has them in his sights is that most of them don't have unions.

That is the sole issue; everything else is smoke.

Catherine Johnson said...

Btw, I read an op ed in Education Week with an idea that at least sounded fabulous to me....I'm not sure it even has a name.

It's a form of voucher, except that the school can't charge any more than the taxpayer-funded tuition they bring in.

That's been the big problem with taxpayer-funded college aid: colleges raise tuition to match aid.

Catherine Johnson said...

I toured a Success Academy school. The curricula was constructivist, and the had floor tiles with words like "cat" and "dog," which the head of school said were "sight words." I asked her about those words at least 3 different times & got the same answer every time, although I continue to hope she wasn't using "sight word" the same way I was.

Funny moment: the school was using....I think it was Terc. (I took notes -will have to look it up.)

The executive told us that the kids hadn't been learning their math facts & the board (she may have said "donors") was all over them because they wanted evidence the kids were learning something.

So the school added "Cognitive Tutor" to the curriculum!

What we most desperately need is charters that are allowed to hire people who haven't been to ed school.

Catherine Johnson said...

DiBlasio also brought Carmen Farina back. Farina practically started the math wars in NYC (I think). First thing she told the Times this go-round: her father taught her that facts are things you put on tests, but thinking is better.

She also tells a story about her first tenure in which a principal tells her his teachers have quiet classrooms. She tells him she better never all inside a quiet classroom.

Apparently thinking is facilitated by noise.

SteveH said...

"...at least not how we're set up currently."

And, as we're currently set up, public schools do not separate the willing and able from those who are not. They could, but they choose not to do so. And, parents have no control or influence over the situation. So now we have charter schools that might try to force out the unwilling or unable (who they had to accept because of a lottery) to do what; make their jobs easier (do they really do less work than regular public school teachers? Advanced kids have special needs.), get better school scores, or to make a higher profits? These are concerns, but not a given.

Public schools have the resources to handle both types of students, but they don't. Too many people think more about fairness to some magic notion of a 19th century model of public education and their tenured and unionized teachers than they do about providing the best individual educational opportunities for all students.


What happens when you wave a magic wand and get rid of all of the charter schools? The regular public schools have less incentive to fix anything, the kids who were pushed out from the charter school are not better off, and the ones who were thriving are clearly worse off. They can't get a good education in regular public schools and the 19th century public school model won't let them go somewhere else.


"It's the kids who need all sorts of services, aides, etc. that run up the per capita cost of education in a public district."


So the public schools take money away from the "easy" students to teach and shifts it to others? Where are all of these easy urban success stories? This isn't about money. No one can tell me that schools just need more money to do a better job. If so, how much do they need for what specific improvement? The charter school complaint often claims that this delta funding differential is meaningful. I see no evidence of that. In fact, our state does not drop funding to schools for a student lost to a charter school for many years. They actually have more money per student.


So what is a 21st Century model for education - one that offers the best individual educational opportunity for all students? It surely isn't the 19th century educational monopoly model or one that continues to keep parents out of the loop.

Auntie Ann said...

I'd say the anti-union thing isn't de Blasio's only motivation. He seems to really hate Eve Moskowitz. Some of his language and actions seem very personal.

VickyS said...

The funding issue can be addressed in large part by having the money follow the student, and have differentials as to how much money follows each student. A special needs student, whose service use is higher, brings more money to their school. Schools in which special needs kids are concentrated, whether they are district schools or charter schools, get more money so that the revenue effect is neutralized. In theory, at least, where the money needed to educate any given student (and which varies which the needs of each student) follows the student, charter schools do not pull money from district schools.

Charter schools and district schools are both public schools. But charter schools are not mini me district schools. They are supposed to be built around a more specific mission. If you have a LD charter school, then you are going to counsel kids who don't have LDs that this may not be the best fit for them. Same for ESL schools, or GT schools, or schools built around interests like music or engineering. No doubt in some of those instances, there will be a selection process of some sort that excludes students who don't fit the mission. For example, our music performance charter school, like almost all of the charter schools here, takes in students by lottery, but in my opinion it would certainly not be wrong to counsel a student that if they are not interested in music performance, this is not the place for them.

The music charter school, or the classical education charter school, may have higher test scores than the charter school that serves recent immigrants or kids with cognitive disabilities. So what, if each of them is serving their target population effectively?

Funny thing though. If you consider charter schools as being test systems for educational ideas that could, if effective, be spread across the larger district system, think again. We have some amazingly effective charter schools here, and I've yet to see district leaders express any interest in amplifying their successes districtwide. To the contrary, as elsewhere, there is simply the chant of elitism, separatism, etc.

Hainish said...

I highly doubt that anti-union sentiment fully explains the antagonism toward charters (or, conversely, that pro-union sentiment explains the public's fascination with traditional districted schools). I think it has more to do with traditional districted schools being sold as somehow more democratic.

SteveH said...

Charter schools in our state have to get their charters approved by the educational "powers that be". They are more willing to accept a charter that is geared towards the kids they don't want - siphoning off the sludge. However, when a charter sets high standards and attracts the best students, they scream of skimming off the cream and profiting.

Also, a STEM high school was rejected recently because educators were in the process of trying to consolidate two medium-sized districts. This was as much about money as it was skimming. The new charter had to somehow prove that it was needed. It was not simply a matter of seeing whether they could get enough parents to commit to sending their kids there.


I really don't like choice. I don't want the freedom of allowing my local K-6 school that's 5 minutes away and in our community to tell me to go somewhere else if I don't like what they are doing. But "Hey!" That's what they tell parents now, and we have to pay for it on top of paying our property taxes. What I do find interesting is the trend around here of sending kids to a private K-8 school, but then bringing them back to our (pretty good) public high school.

Private school competition does help. I know this because our principal told me so. They don't want to see the better students going out of their schools. Fewer students translates to a smaller budget and laid off teachers. This is not a huge force, but when my son came back to our public school in sixth grade, the principal bent over backwards to show how differentiated instruction can also apply to good students. It didn't really work, but the thought was there. I brought him back because the private school turned elitist and they used Everyday Math too. Also, our state requires that all 7th and 8th grade teachers have to be certified in the subjects they teach, and our school finally got rid of CMP.

Regular public schools have the home court advantage. They could easily win this battle if they paid attention to what parents want, or why they pay to send their kids off to private schools. Nope. They just think we are elitist. You can't change the only thing they ever learned in ed schools. K-6 is pedagogically impenetrable.

lgm said...

The story seems incomplete. The NYTimes is reporting that the PS149 school was rejecting the proposal of adding an additional charter school, not eliminating the existing one that it is sharing a facility with, as an addition would cause them to lose space needed for medical treatment of their special needs students. The other two rejected charter ele. schools would be located in high schools, which the DOE didn't want to approve due to reasons unstated other than 'problematic'.

If charter schools are to serve special needs, then funding has to follow the child. These schools aren't funded well enough to absorb the cost of special needs children without starving the unclassified children.

NY State districts in 2010-2011 spent an average of $10,963 each on 2,688,528 students; $29,741 each on 412,226 special needs student.

Catherine Johnson said...

Hainish wrote: "I highly doubt that anti-union sentiment fully explains the antagonism toward charters"

It explains Bill DiBlasio, not the public.

I don't know where you live, but here in New York the teachers' union is almost inconceivably powerful.

The unions own both parties.

That's why the tax cap passed: the tax cap passed because Albany is incapable of repealing or even reforming the Triborough Amendment, which requires that nearly all provisions of all union contracts continue to be honored after the contract has "expired".

Little local school boards have been "incentivized" to do the work Albany can't -- and in our situation this actually makes sense because school board candidates are self-funding.

Catherine Johnson said...

He seems to really hate Eve Moskowitz.

Interesting.

I've been chalking that up to political ineptitude, but you could be right.

DiBlasio **does** remind me of a couple of school board members I've known over the years ... well meaning, intelligent, weak, and far too emotionally invested in the superintendent whose work s/he is supposed to oversee.

DiBlasio served on the NYC school council (not sure what it was called) when Carmen Farina was in charge, and apparently felt close to her; that's why she's back today.

He may be overpersonalizing his relationships with female leaders .... ?

Catherine Johnson said...

The funding issue can be addressed in large part by having the money follow the student, and have differentials as to how much money follows each student. A special needs student, whose service use is higher, brings more money to their school. Schools in which special needs kids are concentrated, whether they are district schools or charter schools, get more money so that the revenue effect is neutralized.

Vicky - right! Exactly.

btw, here in NY I think charters can just be school-schools; I don't **think** they have to have a mission other than the mission any public school is supposed to have.

(Take that with a grain of salt.)

Catherine Johnson said...

K-6 is pedagogically impenetrable.

Our new superintendent MAJORED in elementary education.

Froggiemama said...

One of the big issues is that charter schools are given space in existing school buildings. This has led to incredible anger in the communities affected, and as a result, these communities have heavily backed DiBlasio because of his opposition to this. Imagine if you were a parent who was suddenly told that your kid's school would be losing half its space, including its library and maybe some labs, to a charter school that your kid can't even have a chance of attending? And that this charter school would be heavily financed by hedge funds, so they would have beautiful labs that your kids would not be allowed to enter? This is how Bloomberg was implementing charter schools in NYC, and was a big reason why the minority communities backed DiBlasio - because he said he would put a stop to this.

Anonymous said...

Yes, NYC is somewhat unique in what have been their very generous ways with their buildings -- offering up space for free or for $1/year type of deals and providing already existing and equipped facilities to charters.

No one has mentioned the salaries of some of the charter heads in NYC either:
Moskowitz, who operates 22 city charter schools with millions of dollars in assets and earns a $475,000 salary, also said that she's exploring legal options for taking the city to court over de Blasio's decision, which leaves 194 kids without seats next year. (http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/charter-school-rumble-eva-moskowitz-mayor-de-blasio-article-1.1713651)


gasstationwithoutpumps said...

"In fact, our state does not drop funding to schools for a student lost to a charter school for many years. They actually have more money per student."

That is not the case in California, where schools get funding based on "ADA" Average Daily Attendance. They don't get funding for the students enrolled, but only those that actually show up. A bad flu season can wipe out big chunks of the funding without any reduction in the costs (usually an increase in costs, due to the need to pay substitute teachers when the teachers get sick).

lgm said...

>>Imagine if you were a parent who was suddenly told that your kid's school would be losing half its space, including its library and maybe some labs, to a charter school that your kid can't even have a chance of attending?

I've been in this position. It was a special needs group taking over the building. The classrooms lost their desks and put tables in so they could accomodate all the students who lost their classrooms in order to put in offices for the add'l staff.

A better solution would be a plan to upgrade all of the schools, and tell people that the criteria for selection to use these facilities is good attendance, good behavior, and reading on grade level. That would motivate them to work to get in, instead of spending their energy on taking down students who have put in the work and succeeded. Really, this theory of getting rid of honors/AP etc because 'my kid can't get in' just leads to barbarianism...what's next, they tear down Harvard, because their kid didn't learn enough to get in?

Froggiemama said...

Upgrading all the schools would be great, but the hedge fund billionaires won't donate the money for that purpose. Instead, the hedge fund billionaires just donate to their cronies in the charter schools, which is what leads to the perception of inequity.

Catherine Johnson said...

Froggiemama - I didn't know you were in Westchester!

Catherine Johnson said...

I toured one of the collocated Harlem Academies collocated in a school in Harlem. There was no disparity in facilities (that I saw - and I think we toured the entire school).

The big difference I did see was that the regular school had a GAZILLION office personnel.

The charter school had practically no one in the office.

All the money was going to teachers.

Catherine Johnson said...

I don't see any reason why charter schools should pay rent -- not unless all public schools pay rent, which I don't believe they do.

Catherine Johnson said...

No one has mentioned the salaries of some of the charter heads in NYC either:
Moskowitz, who operates 22 city charter schools with millions of dollars in assets and earns a $475,000 salary


Our superintendent earns $240K (and rising) to oversee the educations of 1800 children.

He has zero interest in accountability (though he seems to be hammering the teachers to raise scores, resulting in massive quantities of HW), increased the budget by 5.7% last school year, is now pushing a bond for artificial turf and a number of "capital" projects a well-run district would not borrow to do, and is focusing on "technology," including flipped classrooms, and "21st century skills."

Ms. Moskowitz's salary certainly isn't out of line with the salaries on Long Island and in Westchester County.

Anonymous said...

"Some try really hard to show that choice is worse than no choice. Are all affluent parents who pay to have their kids go to another school just plain stupid or elitist? How about homeschoolers? But when urban parents want to make the same good or bad choice of sending their kids to charter schools, many don't think they have the ability to determine if school A or school B is better for their child.

In terms of civil rights, the government has to either give all parents choice or take it away from everyone."

Some pigs are required to be more equal than others, Steve.