Wednesday, August 30, 2006

New CS in Rochester

The Chalkboard posts about a new charter school opening in Rochester, a city that has not had the state's best track record in terms of charter school performance. The new school, True North, will face some unique challenges. From the Democrat and Chronicle article:
The 78-student school, at 630 Brooks Ave., is a college prep middle school
designed to teach character as well as the ABC's.
These middle schoolers are so far behind they don't even know the alphabet! No wonder these snapshot studies show charter schools falling behind other schools -- look what they have to work with!

NY Times endorses Yassky

Read it here.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Myths and facts

Good for the NY Times, not backing down from the stance they took two years ago on the NAEP charter school data.

Boo NY Times, getting involved in this silly, pointless argument.

But I agree with their point: that converting a school to a charter school should not be used as a cure-all for failing schools under NCLB. That the solution should address the real problem: inadequate teachers. Of course failing schools have more problems than just inadequate teachers, so it's sort of a simplistic argument. But I agree with the gist of it.

Best line in the editorial:
These studies argue for a more nuanced federal policy that does not just advocate wholesale charter conversion but instead defines and supports successful models only.
On a (barely) related note, Chris went to the Minnesota State Fair yesterday, where, amidst the livestock shows and stands selling fried food on a stick, the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools had a table. He picked up a bunch of info on charter schools to help me with my job search, and also picked up their "myths and facts about charter schools." Later when he told me about it, I realized that I've written the myths and facts about charter schools one-pager so very many times -- from both sides of the issue! -- that it's a little scary. I am the myths and facts about charter schools!

But it sort of comes back to the bigger issue, which is that it's all "myths and facts about charter schools." Meaning, maybe the problem with the charter school movement is it's too politicized. It's about quantity, not quality. (i.e., "Lift the Cap!" "Moratorium!") Maybe that's why this silly argument about whether charter schools are better or worse than non-charter schools persists, and why charter leaders and teachers unions can't seem to get together on the issue. I'm afraid that the fact that it's so politicized means it will never be used as a meaningful tool to effect widespread change in public school systems.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Congrats ...

... to The Quick and the Ed's new blogger!


When I came back from vacation, I had three pieces of direct mail from Yassky. Yesterday I got a fourth. The fact that I haven't received any mail from anyone else leads me to rethink my original idea about the campaign, which was that the race issue would make Yassky such a distasteful candidate that there was no way he could win. Now I realize he has some serious money -- and smart campaign advisors -- behind him. Yassky could pull it off!

Here's what he said in the latest mailing about his action on education:

Int 316-2002 "Junk Food Free Schools Act" led to the removal of candy, soda, and other unhealthy snacks from City schools.

Int 464-A-2005 Translating report cards and other school documents for non-English speaking parents of city schoolchildren.

Int 188-2004 Prohibiting harrassment at schools

Int 261-2004 Requiring the Dept. of Education to provide voter registration forms to students.

Int 559-2003 Requiring the Dept. of Education to test children in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten who are at high risk for lead poisoning

Aside from the second one, none of these are too groundbreaking. Yassky really stuck his neck out, though, to support the second one -- the Education Equity Act. Lots of city councilpeople in districts with high percentages of immigrants didn't support it. It's unclear to me why Yassky did support it, but it earned him major points with Chris.

No record on city council relating to charter schools, but he did visit one of the schools I work with, which some pols would shy away from. Not that there's too much someone who supported charter schools could to in U.S. Congress. Or on city council, for that matter.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


The worst part of vacation is coming back, especially when you're coming back to this charter school study. I feel like the edublogging titans have done a titanic job with it, so I won't bother to get into the fray, except to say (once again) that I really think these kinds of studies are useless, and that it's a total waste of everyone's time and money to come up with facts that prove that one kind of school is better than another.

Why can't we just live in a world where lefties and righties work together toward the common goal of improving education? Where the emphasis is on what works rather than which side are you on?

Because then we'd be in Minnesota.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Short hiatus

After a two-day journey (that included our first taste of cheese curds), the School of Bloggers are now at Chris's new place in Minneapolis. I'll be back and blogging in New York on August 24. Chris will continue posting about the new and wonderful things he discovers in the Twin Cities, where he'll probably spend some of his free time (whatever the PhD program doesn't consume) volunteering in after-school programs or coaching soccer.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Manatee at the Tappan Zee

I think that I shall never see
A Manatee
At the Tappan Zee

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

School of Blogger weighs in

I'm sure Chris will have much more to say about this article later (as well as responses by the Chalkboard, Alexander Russo, and Kevin Carey at the Quick and the Ed). I'll just leave it at wondering if any of the responders, the last one in particular, has actually read Rothstein's Class and Schools. Carey uses the same reductionist logic to indict Rothstein as he accuses Schemo of using.

Look, Chalkboard, Russo, Carey, Schemo: we all care about kids. We've all spent "even a little time in one of the deeply dysfunctional schools that many urban students are forced to attend," so stop accusing each other of not having done so. (Anyone who's read Kozol, for instance, could not possibly make that accusation of him.) It's obvious to all of us that schools can do better. However, it is also obvious to all of us that we can eliminate a good chunk of that achievement gap if we start talking about the real problems, the ones that are even harder to fix than poor schools and inadequate teachers. I'm getting bored with people trying to frame someone else as the enemy just because they feel the need to have an enemy. Nobody is the enemy.

Except for those voucher people -- they really don't care about kids!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Teacher professionalism vs. appreciation

I started to write all this in the comments section of this post, responding to comments by NYC Educator and Ed at AFT, but it got too long, so here we are.

I guess I wasn't referring so much to the massages and the gyms as to the stuff like what Explore Charter School is doing (see original Chalkboard post here). I agree that the massage idea is paternalistic and really isn't much different from traditional teacher appreciation efforts, which are often eerily similar to Secretary's Day and reveal how unprofessionally teachers are viewed in many schools. That's the kind of thing that really makes me think that these charter school operators are terrified of having another Williamsburg Charter situation.

I guess I was thinkking more along the lines of this book (which I posted about here). I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in both social justice and charter schools. Anyway, one of the schools profiled in the book (can't remember the name, but I think it's in Boston) is practicing real, true teacher professionalism -- massages and gyms aren't needed, because teachers are viewed as the professionals they really are. The entire faculty are teacher-researchers -- everything is about constantly examining your own teaching practice to make sure students are really learning, and then sharing your findings with others.

That's the kind of school where I hope to someday teach. That's the kind of teaching experience I want to have, and that's really why I want to be a teacher. Ed and Educator are right, no massage is going to replace that.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

You can't dis Dewey!

New Old School Teacher making the bigtime as a guest blogger on Eduwonk. I have to say I've long thought of her as my blogging nemesis -- she, like I, is a candidate for a Masters/certification in social studies education at an unnamed education school in New York City. However, she, unlike I, is a bit of a right-winger. I admit to sitting in my classes, listening for tell-tale rightwinginess among my classmates, wondering if my one of them was my nemesis. (At some point I concluded that she must be a student at TC, not NYU, my unnamed school.)

Nemesis that she may be, I can't say that I am overly pleased with the program I'm in at my unnamed education school in New York City. (As I've expressed before here and here.) But at least I don't dis Dewey.

I'm not worthy

Joe Williams at the Chalkboard has some really great examples of how charter schools are working "to bring respect to the teaching profession other than old-school collective bargaining."

Worth wondering, however, how many of these schools would be working so far if it weren't for the threat of old-school collective bargaining.

Also worth noting that there are a lot of charter schools that do not treat their teachers this way. And finally, worth wondering if there's a correlation between how professionally a school treats its teachers and those test scores. (State ELA scores coming out on Monday.)

And even finally-er, worth wondering if I'm worthy of posting when my brain is fried by 100 degree heat.