Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Lottery - Pro Charter School Anti-Union Documentary

"The Lottery" is a documentary film that seeks to characterize public education teacher unions as the enemy of public education reform.  According to the film, public education teachers and their unions are the problem but charter schools are the answer.

I don't agree.  That is not what the data shows. There are exceptional charter schools and exceptional traditional public schools.  But the data confirms that charter schools - on average - do not outperform traditional public schools.

That is now openly admitted - "Why Charter Schools Fail the Test" - N.Y. Times - May 4, 2010

One writer calls the film, "advocacy to the point of propaganda."  -  "a virtual PSA for charter schools in general". The film focuses on the New York Harlem Success Academies.

Like the charters in the film, Dallas ISD also has waiting lists at some of its most popular traditional schools of choice.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I Am One - Abi Valdez

Abi Valdez    Abi

 ...I am a better big brother for my four younger siblings since I am no longer on the wrong path... and role model for every other kid having trouble to believe and to change their goals ...

I am one of those kids whose life you have saved.

 ...I promise to graduate 

I Am One - Abi Valdez Speech
Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy
Texas High School Project

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Texas discretionary expulsion rates

The School-to-Prison Pipeline report was released by Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit research and advocacy group focusing on social and economic justice.

“The ‘pipeline’ refers to a disturbing pattern of school disciplinary problems escalating from suspension to removal from school, juvenile justice system involvement, and school dropout,” the report asserts. “Numerous studies by national experts … have established a link between school discipline, school dropout rates and incarceration.
 … More than 80 percent of Texas adult prison inmates are school dropouts."

The report found "the more subjective the discipline criteria, the more African Americans get expelled." These are discretionary expulsions and subjective decisions.

Highest Texas
DistrictDiscretionaryEnrollmentPer 1,000
RIO HONDO38255314.8844
KARNES CITY910188.8409
EAST BERNARD69826.1100
WEST ORANGE-COVE1830115.9781
Source: Texas Education Agency

Name of Image
Texas Appleseed tracks much of the current system back to a wholesale rewriting of Texas education law in 1995, which included several “zero tolerance” policies.
Report: Texas School Districts Quick to Expel - April 14, 2010 - Texas Tribune 
Texas' School-to-Prison Pipeline - Dropout to Incarceration - The Impact of School Discipline and Zero Tolerance
Dallas ISD Student Code of Conduct

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fighting The Dropout Crisis

"President Obama declared that “dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country—and this country needs and values the talents of every American.” 
Special Report: The Dropout Crisis
Graduation Nation Guidebook
Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Charter cash cow

"Wealthy investors and major banks have been making windfall profits by using a little-known federal tax break to finance new charter-school construction."
"The program, the New Markets Tax Credit, is so lucrative that a lender who uses it can almost double his money in seven years.

"In Albany, which boasts the state's highest percentage of charter school enrollments, a nonprofit called the Brighter Choice Foundation has employed the New Markets Tax Credit to arrange private financing for five of the city's nine charter schools.

"Under the New Markets program, a bank or private equity firm that lends money to a nonprofit to build a charter school can receive a 39% federal tax credit over seven years.

"The credit can even be piggybacked on other tax breaks for historic preservation or job creation.

"By combining the various credits with the interest from the loan itself, a lender can almost double his investment over the seven-year period.

"No wonder JPMorgan Chase announced this week it was creating a new $325 million pool to invest in charter schools and take advantage of the New Markets Tax Credit.

"But many of those same schools are now straining to pay escalating rents, which are going toward the debt service that Brighter Choice incurred during construction."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Once children learn how to learn

"Once children learn how to learn, nothing is going to narrow their mind. The essence of teaching is to make learning contagious, to have one idea spark another." -- Marva Collins

"The great end of education is to discipline rather than to furnish the mind; to train it to the use of its own powers rather than to fill it with the accumulation of others." -- Tyron Edwards

"Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength of the nation." -- John F. Kennedy

"Life is no brief candle for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations." -- George Bernard Shaw

"Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants." -- John Gardner

"The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind." -- Kahlil Gibran

"The greatest sign of a success for a teacher...is to be able to say, "The children are now working as if I did not exist." -- Maria Montessori

"No one but us ourselves-no one can and no one way. We ourselves must walk the path, teachers merely show the way." -- Nancy Wilson Ross

"Education would be much more effective if its purpose was to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they do not know and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it." -- William Haley

"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." -- Albert Einstein

"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." -- Benjamin Franklin

"A hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank...but the world may be a better place because I made a difference in the life of a child." -- Forest Witchcraft

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Teach For America review raises questions

A new analysis reported in the Washington Post education section - The Answer Sheet - concludes that students of Teach for America teachers score lower on reading and math tests than students of beginning traditional public school teachers with full credentials.

The report states:
"... Even in the limited cases when Teach for America has a positive impact, it is consistently small;  other reforms may have more promise such as universal pre-schooling, mentoring programs that pair novice and expert teachers, eliminating tracking, and reducing class size in the early grades."
The report also recommends that policymakers and school districts "invest strategically in evidence-based educational reform options that build long-term capacity in schools."

The Teach For America program analysis was done by Assistant Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig of the University of Texas at Austin and Assistant Professor Su Jin Jez of California State University at Sacramento.

Teach For America: A Review of Evidence - June 2010
Edumication News - Unfair Park - TFA discussion
A Chosen Few are Teaching for America

Friday, July 9, 2010

Diane Ravitch at 2010 NEA national convention

Stand Up For Public Education
New Orleans
“I promised to speak out against No Child Left Behind. It's a disaster. It has turned our schools into testing factories. Its requirement that 100 percent of students will be proficient by the year 2014 is totally unrealistic. Any teacher could have told them that.  Thousands and thousands of schools have been stigmatized as failing schools because they could not reach a goal that no state, no nation, and no district has ever reached.  By setting an impossible gol, No Child left behind has delegitimized public education and created a rhetoric of failure and paved the way for privatization.

Public education is the backbone of this democracy, and we cannot turn it over to privateers....The current so-called reform movement is pushing bad ideas. No high-performing nation in the world is privatizing its schools, closing its schools, and inflicting high-stakes testing on every subject on its children. The current reform movement wants to end tenure and seniority, to weaken the teaching profession, to silence teachers’ unions, to privatize large sectors of public education. Don’t let it happen!

"In speaking out, I have consistently warned about the riskiness of school choice. Its benefits are vastly overrated. It undercuts public education by enabling charter schools to skim the best students in poor communities. As our society pursues these policies, we will develop a bifurcated system, one for the haves, another for the have-nots, and politicians have the nerve to boost bout such an outcome.

"...Why expand the number of charters when research shows that on average they don't get better results than regular public schools? Last year, a major evaluation showed that one out of every six charters will get better results, five out of six charters will get no different results or worse results than the regular public schools. A report released just a couple of weeks ago by Mathematica Policy Research once again shows charter middle schools do not get better results than regular public middle schools.

"The National Assessment of Educational Progress, on whose board I served for seven years, has tested charter schools since 2003. In 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009, charter schools were compared to regular public schools and have never shown an advantage over regular public schools. Chater schools, contrary to Bill Gates, are not more innovative than regular public schools. The business model and methods of charter schools is this -- longer school days, longer hours, longer weeks and about 95 percent of charter schools are non-union.

"Teachers are hired and fired at will. Teachers work 50, 60, 70 hours a week. They are expected to burn out after two or three years when they can be replaced. No pension worries, no high salaries. This is not a template for American education.

"....Stand up to the attacks on public education ... Stand up for teachers. Stand up for public education."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

National Council of Churches public education vision

An Alternative Vision for Public Education
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA is a community of 36 Christian communions with a combined membership of 45 million persons in more than 100,000 congregations across this country. Our member churches – from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches – do not agree on all things!  We stand united, however, in our conviction that the church is called to speak for justice in public education. We affirm that each life is infinitely precious,  created in the image of God, and therefore, that every child should be given opportunity for fullness of life, including a quality and affordable education. 

We further affirm that our society’s provision of public education—publicly funded, universally available, and accountable to the public—while imperfect, is essential for ensuring that all children are served.  As a people called to love our neighbors as ourselves, wwe look for the optimal way to balance the needs of each particular child and family with the need to create a system that secures the rights and addresses the needs of all children. We know that such a system will never be perfect, and we pledge as faithful citizens to continue to improve the schools in our communities and to make our system of schools more responsive. 

We value democratic governance of public schools.
We support democratic governance of public schools.  Because public schools are responsible to the public, it is possible through elected school boards, open meetings, ransparent record keeping and redress through the courts to ensure that traditional public schools provide access for all children. We believe that democratic operation of public schools is our best hope for ensuring that families can secure the services to which their children have a right. On balance, we believe that if government invests public funds in charter schools that report to private boards, government, not the vicissitudes of the marketplace, should be expected to provide oversight to protect the common good. 

We reject the language of business for discussing public education. 
Not only has the language of the marketplace entered discussions of school governance and management, but we also notice that the language of business accountability is used to talk about education, a human endeavor of caring.  The primary mechanism of the No Child Left Behind Act has been annual standardized tests of reading and math for all children in grades 3-8, followed by punishments for the schools that cannot rapidly reach ever increasing test score production targets. We worry that our society has come to view what is good as what can be measured and compared.  The relentless focus on testing basic skills has diminished our attention to the humanities, the social studies, the arts, and child and adolescent development.  As people of faith we do not view our children as products to be tested and managed but instead as unique human beings, created in the image of God, to be nurtured and educated.

We value public school educators.
Our biblical heritage and our theology teach us that we live in community, not solely in the marketplace.  As we strive to move our imperfect world closer to the realm of God, we recognize that we are all responsible for making sure that public schools, as primary civic institutions, embody our love for one another.  We are called to create institutions that serve families and children with hospitality.  We are called to work as citizens for the resources that will support a climate of trust and community within each public school. We are also called to value those whose vocation is teaching. Lately we have been dismayed by federal policy that encourages states to change laws to eliminate due process, to devalue the credentials of excellent teachers, and to fire teachers and  principals as though that were a tested recipe for school reform, when we know that no research supports the President’s proposed “turnaround” model that purports to improve a school by firing the principal and at least  half the staff.  We look for a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that honors the professionalism of teachers and treats these individuals with respect. Wholesale scapegoating of public school teachers is an ugly and unfortunate development in federal policy.

NCC delegation meets with U.S. Secretary of Education on the need to provide equal education to all children

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Texas Commissioner of Education October 16, 2009 minimum grading letter

"Our interpretation is that our policies do not need to be changed." Some Texas Districts yet to change grading policies - DMN - August 18, 2009
The letter below was sent to Texas school districts by Robert Scott, Texas Commissioner of Education, on October 16, 2009. 

It provides guidance on the proper interpretation of the 2009 state law - Senate Bill 2033 - now Texas Education Code Sec. 28.0216.
The law was signed by the Governor on June 19, 2009 and became effective immediately.

The Commissioner's letter makes it clear that the state legislature intended to stop all minimum grade requirements in Texas schools.

This means that Dallas ISD has now operated with a minimum grading system that has violated the 2009 state law for all of the last school year and the same policy will continue in 2010-2011 - unless the Board of Trustees acts at the August Board meeting to remove all minimum 50 grade requirements from Board Policy EIA (Local).  

Sec. 28.0216 of the Texas Education Code requires this to be corrected before the beginning of the new school year.                                                                                                                                                                                  

October 16, 2009


Subject:  Senate Bill (SB) 2033 School District Grading Policy

SB 2033, passed by the 81st Texas Legislature, requires each school district to adopt a grading policy, including provisions for the assignment of grades on class assignments and examinations, before each school year. A district grading policy:

(1)     must require a classroom teacher to assign a grade that reflects the student’s relative mastery of an assignment;

(2)     may not require a classroom teacher to assign a minimum grade for an assignment without regard to the student’s quality of work; and

(3)     may allow a student a reasonable opportunity to make up or redo a class assignment or examination for which the student received a failing grade.

TEA understands this legislation to also require honest grades for each grading period including six weeks, nine weeks, or semester grades for two reasons. First, if actual grades on assignments are not used in determining a six weeks grade, the purpose of the legislation has been defeated. Second, since 1995, Texas Education Code, §28.021, has required decisions on promotion or course credit to be based on “academic achievement or demonstrated proficiency.” If the six weeks grades do not reflect the actual assignment grades, they would not reflect academic achievement or demonstrated proficiency.

This legislation permits a district, through local policy, to allow a student a reasonable opportunity to make up or redo a class assignment or examination for which the student received a failing grade. By allowing students to make up work, a district would ensure six weeks grades reflect relative mastery of assignments, even if making up a prior deficit, rather than awarding an automatic grade to a student who has received a failing grade.

If you have questions regarding SB 2033, please contact Monica Martinez, Policy Director in the Curriculum Division, at (512) 463-9581 or via e-mail at monica.martinez@tea.state.tx.us.

Robert Scott
Commissioner of Education


TEA Letter
Senate Bill 2033 - Grading Policies
How a bill became a Law ... and was ignored
TCTA Letter to the Commissioner

Texas Education Code 

Sec. 28.0216.  DISTRICT GRADING POLICY.  A school district shall adopt a grading policy, including provisions for the assignment of grades on class assignments and examinations, before each school year.  A district grading policy:

(1)  must require a classroom teacher to assign a grade that reflects the student's relative mastery of an assignment;
(2)  may not require a classroom teacher to assign a minimum grade for an assignment without regard to the student's quality of work; and
(3)  may allow a student a reasonable opportunity to make up or redo a class assignment or examination for which the student received a failing grade.
Added by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1236, Sec. 1, eff. June 19, 2009.