Cardinal Sin?

It is really hard to run good schools, especially in challenging settings.  Still, Stanford’s much heralded charter school landing at the bottom of CA’s performance list, given all the resources the school has available to it, is a little embarrassing… 

BTW, Aspire Public Schools runs a school right nearby that is doing well, so don’t blame the kids, parents, neighborhoods, etc…

10 Replies to “Cardinal Sin?”

  1. I’d love to hear Eduwonk express such kinds words for Central Falls, “It is really hard to run good schools, especially in challenging settings.”

    Not a chance.

    And the “reformers” double standard for public schools and charter schools continues.

    The statements by the Stanford school officials in the article are classic:

    “I think we’re still learning.”

    “We’ve only been in business for three years.”

    “In a lot of ways we’ve been very successful in the kind of emotional and family support, but our kids’ skills are not up to what they need to be. It just takes time to get things right.”

    “There was significant disruptive turnover in leadership and teaching at the school sites, and we needed greater clarity in lines of authority, decision-making processes, and communication.”

    “This year we embarked on a process of profound reflection and re-design at all levels of our system, from governance and management structures to instructional practice and the use of data to drive decision-making.”

    Sure sounds expensive to learn on the job! And as our fearless ED leader says – these students only have one shot at an education!

  2. steve f.
    Andy has had much more experience teaching and reforming schools than most, so he knows that Stanford’s heart is in the right place, as opposed to those teachers in Central Falls.

    Somewhere, he has written about the reasons teachers in Brixton are much better than teachers in NYC, Detroit, and Anacostia.

    Haven’t found it yet, but I’m sure it out there.

  3. Let’s be clear – this is Andy taking a not-so-veiled shot at Linda Darling-Hammond, who had much to do with the founding of East Palo Alto Academy. LDH has been outspoken in her opposition to TFA and other so-called “reformer” initiatives, and has generally defended teachers unions. Which of course is an affront to Andy, and thus the unsubtle swipe at Stanford’s charter school.

  4. Thanks for the back-story, KN.

    This site is pure propaganda. Maybe worse than the Drudge Report.

  5. The low-performance of STnaford versus the “better” charter down the street could be all about student retention. As researchers are just now documenting, the “high-performing” charter schools often filter out the lower-performing students and retain the higher-performing ones. Perhaps Stanford keeps more of their students than the charter down the street.

    But Propaganda Andy would never want to bother himself with silly things like details and facts.

  6. An interesting story that reform minded Andy never covered:
    Fourth Grader Suspended After Refusing to Answer Exam Question
    Nov. 3 (Bloomberg) — Tyler Stoken was a well-behaved fourth grader who enjoyed school, earned A’s and B’s and performed well on standardized tests.

    In May 2005, he’d completed five of the six days of the Washington State Assessment of Student Learning exam, called WASL, part of the state’s No Child Left Behind test.

    Then Tyler came upon this question: “While looking out the window one day at school, you notice the principal flying in the air. In several paragraphs, write a story telling what happens.”

    The nine-year-old was afraid to answer the question about his principal, Olivia McCarthy. “I didn’t want to make fun of her,” he says, explaining he was taught to write the first thing that entered his mind on the state writing test.

    In this case, Tyler’s initial thoughts would have been embarrassing and mean. So even after repeated requests by school personnel, and ultimately the principal herself, Tyler left the answer space blank. “He didn’t want them to know what he was thinking, that she was a witch on a broomstick,” says Tyler’s mother, Amanda Wolfe, sitting next to her son in the family’s ranch home three blocks from Central Park Elementary School in Aberdeen, Washington.

    Because Tyler didn’t answer the question, McCarthy suspended him for five days. He recalls the principal reprimanding him by saying his test score could bring down the entire school’s performance.

    “Good job, bud, you’ve ruined it for everyone in the school, the teachers and the school,” Tyler says McCarthy told him.

    `He Cried’

  7. If we needed another proof point that Education Professors are an embarrassment to the University world well here you have it. First we have the Arthur Levine’s study about how ineffective Ed schools are in training teachers, then the study where most of the Ed Deans admitted their schools were bogus, and now The New Stanford Schools – an Ed School production. While Dr. Darling-Hammond, the founder of these schools, has written brilliantly about “reform”, she has never embodied the kinds of serious reforms that will dramatically improve outcomes for students. Yes, she has done important work. She helped make the reform debate in education about teacher quality and small schools. Although some of her research, especially on the Teach For America program, has been harshly criticized by other scholars, she has contributed to education scholarship in important ways.

    But unlike Duncan, Klein, Alan Bersin, or Michelle Rhee, her attempt to actually engage in reform as a leader, manager, and doer by founding a charter school has been an abject failure. In fact, in its first year, the charter she founded had rock bottom test scores. Out of nearly 400 public high schools in the state of California, Dr. Darling-Hammond’s ranked in the bottom 40. This is especially astonishing when one considers that Stanford University and major foundations poured millions of dollars in to the creation and operation of this one school. There are numerous examples of educators taking out 2nd mortgages on their homes or using their credit cards and retirement funds to start their schools. Many of them succeeded in opening great schools that ranked in the top 10% of schools in the state, not the bottom 10%. The highest score possible is a 1000.

    East Palo Alto

    API Rank Similar No. of students

    2002 433 1 NA 77
    2003 472 1 1 147
    2004 504 1 3 181
    2005 529 1 3 207
    2006 584 1 6 138
    2007 611 2 7 249
    2008 605 NA NA 322

    API Rank Similar No. of Students

    East Palo Alto HS 472 1 1 147
    Inglewood High 526 1 4 1600
    Compton High 483 1 2 2012
    Richmond High 482 1 2 1553
    Roosevelt High 523 1 4 3920
    Garfield High 531 1 5 3500


    I have heard that East Palo Alto is a tough neighborhood, but I find it hard to believe that it is tougher than Compton, Richmond (Coach Carter’s School in the movie staring Samuel L. Jackson), Roosevelt High in East LA, Inglewood High, or Garfield High School (Jamie Escalante’s School in Stand & Deliver starring Edward James Olmos).

    Add into the comparisons the massive wasteful bureaucracies of school districts, teacher’s unions with their work rules and tenure, and some student populations larger than most towns in America. Then ask yourself, how the heck did Compton High, Inglewood, Richmond, Roosevelt, and Garfield High Schools outperform East Palo Alto High School (now the Stanford New School with all its advantages? How about having only 140 students vs. over 3,000 at Garfield. Should Coach Carter be Dean of the Ed School at Stanford? Another disturbing observation is the drop in enrollment in 2006. Where did one-third of the students go? If you want to duplicate the numbers cited above, the name of East Palo Alto High School has been changed to Stanford New School on the California Department of Education’s website.

    I at least have to give credit to the Education Professors at Stanford, Darling-Hammond included for trying to run a low income school in a tough neighborhood. That she and her colleagues failed miserably should make them the biggest champions of great charter organizations like Achievement First, Aspire, ICEF Public Schools, Uncommon Schools, and YES College Prep, and hundreds of other charter schools who have gotten the job done with the same kids that she failed. A humble admission from Dr. Darling Hammond would have been nice, something like, “whew, wow is this tough. These charter entrepreneurs are something else.” Instead, she has become an apologist for the unions, a refuge of excuses. I hope she goes back to her research some of it – especially the small schools stuff and focus on the classroom being really good quality stuff.

    But I hope that research doesn’t mean more attacks on Teach For America, the non-profit that recruits top-students into teaching in poor communities. Teach For America has done much to shake up the education status quo in the last 20 years. Many of its alumni are still teaching but many have also started schools, serve as principals and even school superintendents, they work in state capitals and in Washington, and they have founded organizations that are getting spectacular results for students. In 2005 Darling-Hammond’s published a study slamming Teach For America as the most over hyped reform breakthrough in decades. “They didn’t know what kids are supposed to learn in third grade,” said Darling-Hammond. “They don’t know how to put a curriculum together. They didn’t know how to assess the student’s achievement.” (Apparently, after trying to run her own charter school – Darling-Hammond doesn’t either). This often frustrates the young instructors and can make them resort to stricter teaching strategies, simply because they do not know what the alternatives are for creating a curriculum that is exciting and engaging, Darling-Hammond said.

    “It is common for these teachers to create a setting in which the kids are under very, very tight control,” she added.
    But there was less to the study than it seemed but the problems were unfortunately hidden in tables and appendices that only a hound dog could find and only a trained researcher could understand. University of Washington economist Dan Goldhaber and Darling-Hammond’s own Stanford colleague Susanna Loeb publicly questioned the quality of the study and the way the data was released (or not released). More importantly several other studies using better research methods have found that Teach For America teachers do as well or better than other teachers including veterans and teachers who came through traditional training programs. Abigail Smith of Teach For America said flatly that Darling-Hammond has an “inexplicable, 12-year vendetta against Teach for America.” Source: Stanford Daily, April 15, 2005.

    Now Stanford University should act. Take this school away from the School of Ed and give it the Classics Department or the Business School or a CMO with a great track record. The kids shouldn’t suffer while the School of Ed figures it out. Like TFA, Stanford’s Ed School apparently “doesn’t know what kids should learn” or “they don’t know how to put a curriculum together” or the more likely answer, they don’t know how to hire the best people. Professors of Education and the other soft departments are so used to hiring folks and granting tenure to folks that slavishly agree with them on every ideological point rather than the best people for the job – that ED departments are doomed to fail in any enterprise where intellectual honesty and street smarts are at a premium.

  8. A friend of mine in an administrative credentialing program in the Bay Area has visited a variety of schools as an assignment. She recently visited an Aspire middle school (almost all low-income Latino) and reported to me that things there seemed calm and very under control.

    The kids were compliantly filling out lots of worksheets, the teachers were primarily young and white, and, from classroom to classroom, lessons were being conducted in exactly the same manner.

    However, she also commented that the tone at the school was sort of creepy and seemed like “The Stepford Wives.”

    So the primary pro of the Aspire model seems to be the regimentation. Being educated and middle-class, she and her classmates agreed that they would NEVER be willing to send their kids to a school with such a dull and ultra-controlled environment.

    Dutifully filling out worksheets seems to be a model of education that is emerging for low-income kids and it seems to work for some of them. This would explain why Aspire gets decent standardized test scores. But I’m not convinced the kids who attend those schools are getting the type of well rounded, and challenging education that will let them effectively compete with middle-class kids when they get out in the real world.

    It remains to be seen if test scores will be everything.

  9. Let’s be clear – this is Andy taking a not-so-veiled shot at Linda Darling-Hammond, who had much to do with the founding of East Palo Alto Academy.

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