Friday’s Action

Take a few minutes out from polishing your resume for Commerce Secretary to:

Get the latest on the KIPP – union situation in New York City from the Mind of Medina in today’s Times .  Background on all that here.

Think of a new name for NCLB.

Learn about another school organizing situation: This one in Scranton with Catholic schools.

Wonder if education politics really are starting to change?

Contemplate how irrational our teacher licensing and credentialing regimes are given what the research keeps showing (pdf).  The issue is not the common complaint that reformers think anyone can teach.  That’s nonsense.  The issue is that we do a really lousy job identifying and training good teachers in this country despite spending billions on it annually.   And we don’t learn from other models.

Consider that we also repeat the same mistakes city after city (pdf) as a new TNTP analysis in San Francisco shows.  

Read new research on the Philly school experiment with for-profit providers. 

Worry because the Commodore says the states are in bad fiscal shape.  

2 thoughts on “Friday’s Action

  1. john thompson

    The TNTP report was very good, and very constructive. It is not a criticism, however, to observe that the issues described are competing for a distant second in terms of issues effecting the recruiting and retention of teaching talent. It is the deplorable learning culture which is far and away the prime reason why poor NEIGHBORHOOD schools can’t retain effective teachers.

    The same applies to your previous post regarding Matt Ladner and KIPP. I followed the link, and in this case I’m the one who has direct knowldge of the people involved. Yes, Moon Middle School in Oklahoma City made the Harper’s Index after a lunch riot where 490 or so students were suspended, if I recall correctly. I was extremely close to many of those kids, including the “ringleaders.” They would ride on my back as I swam the pool until I was too exhausted to climb out of the water without the ladder. I was in their neighborhood’s crack houses and negotiated with their guard dogs. My house created a safe place for some to cry after witnessing a murder. (And some made me back down from driving off a white junkie, and they did so in a way that I’ll never forget) The soundtrack for those years was “Spike Lee does Acappello” and their favorite song on it was “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” I have never doubted those kids abilitiies to succeed in a system that celebrated their full humanity.

    A lot of schools claim to be “an alternative school to the alternative schools,” but Moon really was (as is my school now) but Moon as I remember was worst. A lot of schools claim that the police or sheriff bring kids in handcuffs and unlock them and drop them off at school, but frankly I have never seen it. That reality wasn’t uncommon at Moon.

    I had plenty of conversations with Tracy, the principal, his administrators, teachers, parents, and of course my young buddies who attended there. I don’t recall Tracy or anyone else claiming that they were allowed to enforce discipline. In fact, I thought the administrators were as bold as possible in asserting that neighborhood middle schools aren’t allowed to assess discipline. I don’t recall anyone who believed it was humanly possible for the adults in that school OPERATING UNDER THE RULES THAT NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS HAVE TO OPERATE UNDER to turnaround that 800 student school. I do recall a wonderful assistant principal who suggested that we line up all adults and line up all students, count off one, two, three, four, and divide the school into four small schools and let each school experiment with their own approaches.

    Yes, 214 KIPP students now get an excellent education and they have an 84% poverty rate and 11% special ed, in comparison to the old 90 to 100% poverty rate with 24 to 33% of students on IEPs. (The effect of the change in special ed rates is geometrical; a school wouldn’t try to exclude the sweet students with reading disabilities who tend to be wonderful in so many ways, but it’s the Seriously Emotionally Disturbed who represent the bulk of special ed students in our neighborhood schools. SED kids are just as sweet and deserving but you can’t imagine how much more work they generate and how impossible it is for neighborhood schools to manage the paper work and the policies when kids work out their trauma through chronic disorder and/or violence and nearly half have federal protections. Again, those civil rights protections are worthy but when half of the students are under those rules, principals and teachers are helpless.) And again, you can’t just blame the district or the state either. Society created this mess, and our political system hasn’t attempted to address the systemic problem.

    KIPP has tried to expand in OKC. But that is part of the point. They have long ago reached the upper limit of their market.

    I think its great that KIPP is serving 200 poor kids and I hope that Oklahoma City succeeds in recruiting 50 TFA teachers as we are trying to do. But its silly to think that they face anything comparable. And as I’ve written in thisweekineducation, I have served far more special ed students in just one of my regular classes this year that all of the magnet and selective charter schools in the district combined!

    I have also told the story about a union rep who was so upset that he couldn’t hold his words in saying, “What does it take to fire a teacher in this district? I just “won.” I should be happy. What does it take to fire someone in this district.” Guess where that teacher taught? On the other hand, in what bizarro universe could you find enough teachers will to serve all 800 of those fantastic but trying children.

    That union leader continues to do heroic work, offering “win win” reforms and using Ed Sector data trying to persuade the district to adopt the Toledo Plan.

    But kids in the toughest neighborhood schools will continue to suffer until we no longer have schools that are “the alternative school to the alternative school.” And we won’t get there until people can subordinate their ideology, and their desire to play the blame game, and give NEIGHBORHOOD schools the tools necessary to control the chronic disorder and violence.

    And that goes for the TNTP report also.

    One last afterthought, those summers after dedicating so much to those kids I developed a habit that was risky in a place where Rush Limbaugh was blaring from every other radio. After every day of wrestling with the aftermath of slavery and Jim Crow, it wasn’t just the kids who were quick to clinch their fists and rear up over insults. I’d have to continually keep myself from responding to someone “looking for something to start.” Now, I just don’t understand why liberals are so hot to trot, trying to pick fights with unions, teachers, and others who see things differently.

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