Archive for charter schools

WalkerWorld: Achievement gap between black and white Wisconsin students “unacceptably high”


walker world

The LaCrosse Tribune is reporting on how things are going in Scott Walker World, specifically how fourth- and eighth-grade students are coming along.

The good news?

Wisconsin fourth- and eighth-graders are scoring at and above national averages in reading and math, according to results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests released Thursday...

The bad news?

... but the results also showed the state’s achievement gap is the highest of all 50 states.

Wisconsin’s gap [between black and white students] is the highest in each of the four areas tested among states, according to the NAEP testing data. [...]

The achievement gap between black and white Wisconsin students is “unacceptably high,” DPI said. Wisconsin’s black students’ average scores were some of the lowest in the country.

Gee, could it have anything to do with his budget funding school vouchers, charter schools "leaving public schools on life support"?


Wisconsin report card: 53% of charter schools fell below expectations, 2 got failing grade


grade F

Back in February I posted, Gov. Scott Walker's budget: Planned Parenthood closes 4 locations; funds school vouchers, charter schools "leaving public schools on life support."

Yes, Scotty not only tries to bust unions, but he also makes it harder on children, including special needs children, to access public education.

By the way, did you know that e-mails linked the Jeb Bush foundation, corporations, ALEC, and education officials? Of course, corporate funders benefited. Leave it to the GOP to put profits over the educational needs of all children.

When schools are privatized, they exist to make money, which leads to cutting corners and catering to those who can afford the high price of a private education. And charter schools challenge teachers’ unions while education opportunities suffer. In Philadelphia, charter school teachers rallied for unionization:

[T]hese teachers are on the frontlines of the education reform movement and among the first to seek to unionize the corporate education sector.

$400,000 was spent by the group that owns the charter of the high school in question to stop that union effort.

At the rally, the teachers were pretty clear about what they were fighting for; and, it doesn't revolve around pay and benefits. Emily Guck who has been teaching at Olney Charter High School for two years explained that since teachers see how policy affects their students on a day-to-day basis, teachers at the charter school should be granted a seat at the table.

Period. That was their priority, not money.

One twelfth grade teacher at the school explained:

"One of the reasons we feel our charter school union drive is so important in the present moment is that over the last decade or so, as we've seen charter schools continue to proliferate, major changes have happened in terms of who actually gets to make decisions about public education. Traditionally, such decisions have been made through collaborations between elected officials, teachers, parents, and administrators. Increasingly, they are now being made in closed-meetings by the unelected board members of private organizations, who may or may not have backgrounds in education, or children in the schools for which they are making decisions."

In Wisconsin, charter schools and voucherizing have consistently been pet issues for Gov. Walker. Let's check in on how that's been working out.

Via JSOnline:

Despite having more freedom over curriculum, budgets and staffing than traditional public schools, the majority of Milwaukee's independent charter schools are not meeting performance expectations, according to statewide report card results for 2012-'13.

Of the 17 independent charters in Milwaukee that received a rating through the state's new school report card accountability system, 53% fell below expectations, with two schools authorized by the City of Milwaukee receiving a failing grade... The schools are publicly financed but privately managed, and are given freedom from bureaucratic restraints on school districts in exchange for upholding a promise to deliver on performance. [...]

[O]n a percentage basis, the 134 schools rated in MPS [Milwaukee Public Schools] educated three times as many students learning English and twice as many students with special needs, compared with independent charters. The charter schools enrolled a higher percentage of white students and lower percentage of students in poverty than MPS.

Class dismissed.


Somebody talk me down



Forgive me for putting on my Debbie Downer hat, but I started the day by reading way too many news stories that, frankly, freaked me out. And when I get freaked out, I share my freak-outitude with you in hopes that we can either commiserate or collectively come up with constructive solutions... or both.

Or maybe you can just do me a favor and talk me down.

Let's start with this one from the Los Angeles Times: White House takes GOP side on church-state case, buttressed by this article from back in May that Paddy sent me, Atheist Invocation Sparks Inevitable Demagoguery. Read the title of that first link again. I'll wait.

Okay, now here's the gist via The Times:

In a potentially far-reaching case on separation of church and state, the Obama administration and Republican lawmakers tell the Supreme Court they support easing limits on prayers at meetings.

The Obama administration and congressional Republicans have found something to agree on: Town councils should be allowed to open their meetings with a Christian prayer.

Lawyers for the administration and two groups of lawmakers from the House and Senate, nearly all Republicans, separately made that argument in briefs to the Supreme Court this week. The high court should relax the constitutional limits on religious invocations at government meetings, they argued.

The case could lead to a major change in the law on religion that would go well beyond prayers at council meetings.

As the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said, "A town council meeting is not like a church service, and it shouldn't be treated like it is."

And this happened a few months ago. Keep in mind that Rep. Mendez came out as an atheist:

Republican Rep. Steve Smith on Wednesday said the prayer offered by Democratic Rep. Juan Mendez of Tempe at the beginning of the previous day’s floor session wasn’t a prayer at all. So he asked other members to join him in a second daily prayer in “repentance,” and about half the 60-member body did so. Both the Arizona House and Senate begin their sessions with a prayer and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

“When there’s a time set aside to pray and to pledge, if you are a non-believer, don’t ask for time to pray,” said Smith, of Maricopa. “If you don’t love this nation and want to pledge to it, don’t say I want to lead this body in the pledge, and stand up there and say, ‘you know what, instead of pledging, I love England’ and (sit) down."

Essentially, the GOP representative took it upon himself to scrub those icky atheist cooties from the floor. Would you like to know what the evil, filthy non-believer had the nerve to say in his evil, filthy non-believy prayer? USA Today:

A state lawmaker acknowledged that he is an atheist as he gave the daily House invocation Tuesday, urging legislators to look at each other, rather than bow their heads, and "celebrate our shared humanness."

That's right, Republicans apparently feel that encouraging civility and humanity is a bad thing... if suggested by someone who thinks differently from them.

Now hitch that episode up to the report about the Obama administration and our lawmakers pushing for prayer, and you get more potential opportunities for bigotry and a big fat rejection of the separation of church and state.

Why must any religious ritual be a part of government meetings? This opens up a huge can of worms (read the article). Why must religious prayer open those meetings? When did a license to discriminate become synonymous with the First Amendment? What about those of us who do not believe? What about opening sessions with a Muslim or Jewish prayer? Why was an atheist expression of goodwill disdained and discarded like trash? Again, why begin sessions with prayers in the first place?

Instead, call for a moment of silence, and let each person do his/her thing. Why should anyone's god be a priority? I could go on, but I need more talking down from other political ledges, like the disintegration of unions and public schools, the middle class, and the environment:

Re "LAUSD freed of Bush-era rules," Aug. 7

Why do California school districts have to agree that test scores are reliable indicators of teacher effectiveness, a premise that has been disproved, to receive a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law?

From its inception, most teachers opposed NCLB's impossible requirement that by 2014 all students must demonstrate proficiency in every educational standard as measured by one standardized test. Is there any reasonable person who believes that 100% of California's adult population could demonstrate complete mastery of even the fourth-grade curriculum?

Of course, almost all schools are doomed to "fail" under these criteria, and public schools would eventually become for-profit charter schools.

It's time for a more realistic version of NCLB written by those who understand what can reasonably be expected. No waivers necessary.

Kurt Page

Laguna Niguel


Re "Middle-class mayday," Opinion, Aug. 4

Smith's op-ed article displays clearly the problem of the wage freeze on American workers since the l970s, even though their productivity had increased by some 80%.

The great reduction in union membership during the past 30 years has been a very important cause. Without the collective bargaining power that only unions can provide, there's little incentive for employers to raise wages to match productivity.

With increased wages, middle-class workers would buy more of the goods and services produced by American corporations. The U.S. economy would be the ultimate beneficiary of this fairer distribution of wealth.

Edward C. Bayan



Re "A dry and desperate state," Aug. 6

Thank you for the gripping article on the effects of persistent drought in the Southwest, especially New Mexico. This is a dramatic example of the types of extreme weather events that are occurring much more frequently now than half a century ago.

Scientific evidence suggests that these events are a consequence of the gradually rising global temperatures which, in turn, result from the gradually increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

These emissions result from the human use of fossil fuels, and the trend they represent can be decreased only by shutting down the coal- and natural-gas-fueled power plants, which produce the majority of greenhouse gases, and replacing them with alternative energy sources.

Michael Werner


Somebody, anybody, please talk me down.



Repackaging Failure


Guest post by an anonymous teacher in the Cleveland, Ohio school system.

The Cleveland Metropolitan school District has come up with the "Cleveland plan" to improve what are considered to be our failing schools. As part of the Cleveland plan they have designated several "Investment Schools" which will receive a shake up in their staffing along with a rebadging. The question remains as to what else if anything they will receive as part of this plan.

As with so many times in the past the majority opinion is that this is simply another sleight of hand move by the mayor and the CEO of the Cleveland schools to draw attention away from the real problem while simultaneously keeping the blame upon the teachers and the schools themselves. Interestingly enough several of the new personnel at CMSD were brought on board at the district as recently as just last year. What do they have in common? They all came from the same charter school background in the Metropolitan DC area.

There has long been a feeling among Cleveland teachers that the ultimate intent of our district is to turn the majority of our schools, if not all of them, into charter schools within the next 10 years. Interestingly enough just a few months ago I happened to be eating lunch at one of my favorite restaurants downtown within earshot of two people who were obviously in an informal job interview. One was someone who works for the school district, as I heard several of our schools mentioned by name, and the other was someone who was being looked at for what appeared to be a management position. The person from the district on more than one occasion stated that within the next five years the majority of the schools in the district would be running on a charter School model.

We had our staff meeting last week and the chief academic officer was there to brief us and supposedly answer questions. The briefing was rather circuitous and there were not a lot of specifics except the fact that staff would be required to reapply for their jobs through an interview process. Emphasis was made on getting parents involved, improving student attendance and participation, etc. These are things that we've been working on steadfastly for years using everything at our disposal besides costumed monkeys riding dwarf ponies wilst spinning plates on sticks..

Almost all of the questions asked by teachers during the course of the meeting revolved around our inability to do just these things and the feeling that we have had very little if any support for the administration on these issues in the past. Instead of assisting the district constantly hammers us about our poor test scores and poor daily attendance rates.

This is a very lower lower-class neighborhood. Many of our children come to school daily in filthy clothes and not having had breakfast, sleep, or a variety of other necessities. The lack of any alternative vocational or employability skills training was also brought up in questions. Truly this is the link pin to bring our neighborhood and others like it up from a pressure cooker of disinterest, crime, and subculture to a working-class neighborhood where people have the ability and the inclination to invest in their children's future literally and figuratively.

Upon direct questioning as to how much more money was going to be put directly into the school as a "investment school" the CAO skirted the question by simply saying that it would be determined by the school board.
We've seen small schools, academies, and school improvement grant (SIG) schools. The commonality among all of them is the fact that no effort is made to address the needs of school discipline, culture, and mutual respect. Just last week we had a virtual riot at my school with a group of approximately 6 students showing up in the parking lot two hours after school commenced. They were brought inside by security and questioned. Another student from the opposing faction then pulled the fire alarm causing everyone to spill out into the parking lot. At this point several flights erupted simultaneously including one in which a young lady produced a tasser from her purse and began tasing other students around her. A student in the opposing group produced a padlock and began hitting girls in the head with it causing serious gashes on several. When parents were contacted and after police arrived the biggest complaint from the parents was as to how the school could've let this happen. None seemed to be angry with their children or to question why their children were purposely inciting a riot on school grounds and using weapons. The parents actually knew that the fight was being precipitated on Facebook yet they failed to inform the school or take any effort to intervene themselves.

I'm honestly at a loss as to how we can change this culture that we produced which makes it okay to solve every problem with a fist, a knife a taser or a gun. Our leaders tell us we have to have high standards, create a welcoming environment and been understanding of our students diverse needs. We do this and much more. Who we are helping by telling each and every one of them that they are going to college is a question I'd like to see answered.

In the meantime we can continue to smile and recreate ourselves every couple of years while our students continue to end up wearing ankle bracelets, getting high every morning, starting fights and ending up in in jail or worse.


Gov. Scott Walker's budget: Planned Parenthood closes 4 locations; funds school vouchers, charter schools "leaving public schools on life support"


walker world

Gov. Scott Walker's been a busy little bee.  And by busy little bee, I mean he's destroying lives again: Planned Parenthood announces it'll close 4 of 27 locations in Wisconsin, blames Scott Walker's budget cuts:

Planned Parenthood said Monday it will close four of its 27 locations in Wisconsin... between April and July due to a lack of state funding.

Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican cronies in the legislature eliminated public funding for low-income and uninsured patients seeking reproductive health care at Planned Parenthood, the largest provider in the state, because some of its clinics offer abortions.

No war on women, GOP? Really? Two thousand low-income residents will now have to schlep to other counties, drive up to an hour, in order to get what they need to stay alive: cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and other women's health services. How's that for "pro-life"?

but wait there's more

Via JSOnline, we see Scotty's not only trying to bust unions, but he's also making it harder on children, including special needs children, to access public education:

Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to increase funding for voucher and public charter schools as well as his plan to create a new stream of funding to allow special-needs children to attend private schools drew immediate criticism Sunday from the state's largest teacher union, public school advocates and a major disability rights group. [...]

Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state's largest teacher union, said... "The stagnant revenue on top of the largest cuts to education funding in Wisconsin history in the last budget is another clear indication that this governor has no intention of supporting neighborhood schools..." [...]

"(Walker's) real focus is privatizing public education with another infusion of resources to the unaccountable taxpayer-funded private school voucher program while leaving our neighborhood public schools on life support," she added.

State Rep. Sondy Pope, ranking Democrat on the Assembly's Education Committee, said, "These people are trying to starve Wisconsin public schools."

The special-needs vouchers proposal was opposed by the state Department of Public Instruction, disabilities rights groups, and the state school boards association. They will significantly change "the way students with special needs are served." Not to mention the over $20 million for special-needs children "could have been applied to help public schools across the state, not just for the minority of children who could use that taxpayer subsidy to attend a private school," according to Lisa Pugh, public policy coordinator for Disability Rights Wisconsin.

Walker's all heart, isn't he? Always looking out for the little guy. And by "little guy" I mean women and children.

family values my ass




"Charter co-locating at our school will harm... our democracy... It will teach my kids that segregation is OK."


public school sinking cartoon via

We enrolled our twins in public schools and, for a short time, in a private school. The reason we switched to a private elementary school for two years is that our neighborhood school lost funding for art and music programs, and my kids needed them badly (as do all kids, but our boys were going through some very tough times, and drawing and painting were outlets we couldn't do without).

As soon as they became old enough to enter middle school, back to public school they went. We never looked back.

Analise Dubner has written a lengthy, substantive blog about her own child and the decisions that her family had to make regarding public v. private v. charter schools, and the bias against public schools.

Here are a few excerpts (bolding mine), but please link over to the entire must-read post:

My husband and I put our son into private school, even though we couldn't afford it. We did this without even looking at our local Elementary.  [...]

It was a fine school, yes, we liked it there, liked the teachers, made a few lifelong friends, our kid did well... we promptly burned through our savings, and just like that, it was over... So, we girded ourselves and walked bravely down to the School Of Ill Repute (known to others as Micheltorena Elementary), and we took the Open House tour. And ... 
...we @#$% loved it. [...]

What if I told you that you can actually take your local school and make it what you want it to be? I know that's not what you believe, not what you've been LED to believe. [...]

Turns out you can teach your kids just fine and still take that ridiculous test. I just pack a lunch for my kids, and we find ways to work around or with the rules we've got. I talk to my kids, help them with their projects, and I know they are engaged, smart and curious. That's the real litmus test.

We all know that there has been a movement in this country for the last 20 years to dismantle the very idea of public education and that it has led us to a place where a privately-run, unaccountable, sometimes-corporate Charter School is being touted as the answer. Some established, proven Charters (like many Public schools) are perfectly good schools, but if you've done any real homework, you have to know that these legions of new schools are just as likely to fail your kids as any public school, and that, often, these untried schools are (by law) allowed to paw through public school assets just to get started. [...]

[M]any Charters have younger, inexperienced teachers using untested "progressive" techniques created as lures for enrollment. So many parents end up as 'Charter-Hoppers' because these untested programs fail their children. I know you want to believe that 'new' is better because obviously 'old' has failed, right? I've got some shocking news. My son's 4th grade uses 'progressive' project-based learning techniques. I know! Public school! What-what?! [...]

This isn't about a bunch of local parents barking territorially at intruders. The Charter co-locating at our school will harm our kids, harm our school, harm our democracy. I'm sorry to put it so bluntly and so melodramatically, but that's what I believe. It doesn't just compete for enrollment, jeopardize our Elementary's future, take our classrooms, or bog down our Principal's already-stretched time with administrative haggling over resources; it will teach my kids lessons I only want them to read and puzzle over in history books - that segregation is OK. 

What did she just say? Why use such a loaded word? Because what we are seeing now is precisely what segregation is. This Charter, like so many others have done already in this very city, wants to put a dividing line down the middle of our school grounds so their kids aren't contaminated by our kids - in direct opposition to the very ideals this country is supposedly built on.

Just go read the rest of this piece, please. And then share it with as many people as you can.

By the way, this isn't a political piece, there is no mention of unions, guns, or religion. We've covered that in previous posts here at TPC.

Added: Here is a comment left by the author in response to one of her commenters:

Thank you so much for your reasonable comments. I KNOW you just want what's best for your kid and you think you found it. But I do want you to consider the consequences of this Charter's actions. I know you love what the CWC curriculum has to offer, but what if the price is too high to get it? That's all I'm really asking you to consider. The presence of this Charter at our school means: 1) Susanna has to spend time she doesn't have wrangling over resources, 2) we can no longer use the rooms (that we are using) that the Charter would take, 3) competition for much-needed enrollment at a VITAL time in our growth, 4) jeopardizing the dual language program we had intended to start next year, and, (to me) most importantly, 5) creating a sense on our campus, amongst our kids, that the Charter kids are different...sectioned off... BETTER than our kids. Why do we think this? We've already heard all the talk about how the Charter wants to hire security to "protect" their kids from ours. That the CWC was considering building a FENCE around the Bungalows they mean to occupy.Other co-locating Charters post teachers outside the bathrooms to make sure the public school kids don't go inside while a Charter kid is using them. Teachers instruct kids not to speak to each other.

So, Jane, please, honestly. Is that not segregation? You want to put your kid in that? How good does a curriculum have to be to make you want to create that kind of place for children? Ours... or yours?

And from another of her comments:

Healthy competition? Sure, compete away. But, would you consider it healthy competition if someone who dreamed of opening their own sandwich shop were to walk into an existing sandwich shop, steal their sandwiches and then sell them to the shop's customers out of the shop's bathroom?


E-mails link Jeb Bush foundation, corporations, ALEC, and education officials. Corporate funders benefit.


jeb bush george bush

Gee, who'da thunk it? A foundation associated with GOP darling Jeb Bush hooking up with ALEC and pushing school vouchers? We're shocked, we tells ya, shocked!

E-mails have been posted online here between the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) and a group Jebby set up called Chiefs for Change. Here are its members. They are current and former state education commissioners who support Bush’s agenda of "school reform," meaning more charter schools, meaning vouchers, meaning privatization, meaning cutting union jobs... and pushing for "cyber schooling" and standardized tests among other things.

Having worked at public schools for years as an educator, I have my own voucher: I can vouch that more teaching to the test and less public education are bad for this country. I can also vouch that private schools mean more discrimination, more inequality... well, just take it from ALEC Exposed:

ALEC bills would privatize public education, crush teacher's unions, and push American universities to the right. Among other things, these bills make education a private commodity rather than a public good, and reverse America’s modern innovation of promoting learning and civic virtue through public schools staffed with professional teachers for children from all backgrounds.

Oh, and three states are pushing an ALEC bill to require teaching climate change denial in schools.

Via WaPo, a must-read:

A nonprofit group released thousands of e-mails today and said they show how a foundation begun by Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and national education reform leader, is working with public officials in states to write education laws that could benefit some of its corporate funders. [...]

[The e-mails] reveal — conclusively, he said — that foundation staff members worked to promote the interests of some of their funders in  Florida, New Mexico, Maine, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Louisiana. [...]

There are strong connections between FEE and the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), according to the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy...

bush is our children learning