Dog Stories, Campus Climate, Mass Charter Parents, ESSA Accountability, CS Pipeline, Richmond Schools, And More!

Here are two dog stories.

Ehlena, a child with cerebral palsy and her service dog, Wonder, navigate the school day together. Wonder, who Ehlena got after friends and family raised money, is quite a dog according to NPR:

Wonder was trained to hit handicapped buttons for her, to open and close doors, to pick up items she dropped, and perhaps most importantly, to stabilize her so that she could make transfers from a chair to a walker, or from a walker to a toilet seat.

And, not surprisingly with skills like those, Wonder is pretty popular at school:

He went to class with Ehlena and to lunch. He was in the staff section of the yearbook. He had his own ID card. He was in the class picture. And, says Ehlena’s mother, the relationship between dog and kid was integrated into the school seamlessly.

But here’s a similar situation in a different school district with a special-needs child and a service dog:

the dog was not permitted to sit with [the child] in class or to go with her to the lunchroom.

[the family] were even required to demonstrate a toilet transfer with adults from the school watching, an experience that [the parent] says was devastating and traumatic for her daughter.

After the 30-day trial, the school returned to its no-dog policy. Although [the dog] is a hypoallergenic breed, the school said among other things that two children and one teacher were allergic to dogs, and that one child had a dog phobia because he had previously been attacked by a dog.

OK, perhaps not everyone is a dog person? Actually, as you can no doubt tell, they are the same dog story. Same child. Same dog. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in this case today (link goes to a great Mark Walsh scene setter). The issue turns on what actions parents can bring under federal disabilities statutes and where the Individuals With Disabilities Act and state processes fit into that scheme. That’s a legal question that reasonable people can disagree about especially in the context of the litigation-heavy IDEA. But the underlying facts and that ethos might be more important in the long run for public education. There are a lot of districts like that second one and they turn parents who could be allies into adversaries. We might ask why? (By the way, it takes cases a while to find their way to the high court, in case you’re wondering Wonder is now apparently enjoying retirement though he will be at the court today).

Erika Christakis, the early childhood expert and former Yale professor speaks out – on the eve of Halloween of course – about her experience at Yale last year.

“I don’t wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation,” I wrote, in part. “I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students.”

Some called my email tone-deaf or even racist, but it came from a conviction that young people are more capable than we realize and that the growing tendency to cultivate vulnerability in students carries unacknowledged costs.

There is a lively debate about this idea. I was at a dinner recently with faculty and students of a prominent east coast school and a student affairs dean made the point that declining participation in formal student activities on their campus owes in part to a culture where the 3.3 student who does a bunch of activities feels like they are losing out to the 3.9 student who just keeps their head down and focuses on grades. It’s an interesting point and a real one for some post-graduate paths. So I wonder if what Christakis is talking about is another cost, a lot of students just want to keep their heads down because they feel less agency in today’s statist climate regardless of what they think about the various issues?

Whitmire on Massachusetts charter parents:

Barbara Madeloni, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, takes a more philosophical approach to wait-listed parents. Rather than denying that there are thousands of parents on those lists, she suggested in a radio interview that those parents need to sacrifice their personal desires for what she sees as a greater good: high-performing traditional public schools in all neighborhoods.
“I would ask that person to join us in thinking beyond just your child,” said Madeloni in an interview on WBUR’s Radio Bostonshow. “We are stronger as a community when we think beyond our circle. … As a community together, are we going to be interested in the common good, or are we going to be invested in our individual needs?

This is basically the debate. Except it’s not in practice. That’s because the charter parents and want-to-be charter parents aren’t stupid. They get that parents with means have already exited. Those parents live in places they can afford to live with good public schools or they send their kid to private options. So they – the people who most need good public schools as a matter of social mobility and opportunity for their kids but can’t move to a tony neighborhood or pay for a private school – are being asked to ‘think beyond their circle’ when no one else is. Maybe flip that on its head and ask all the comfortable suburban voters who are against creating more charter schools for underserved Massachusetts kids to think beyond their circle?

This paper looks at the 5th indicator for ESSA accountability systems. First, it should go without saying that 5th Indicator is a fantastic band name, especially for a band that had education players in it. The author thinks chronic absenteeism is a place to go. It’s a key indicator – for adults and kids – in terms of climate.

Google and Gallup look at the computer science pipeline. Buzzy Hettleman on tutoring. James Dyke and Gerard Robinson on the long overdue but hard choices for Richmond, Virginia schools. Jamar Mckneely on a NOLA turnaround.

Homecoming news: Here’s a sweet story. Here’s a story that I can’t help but think occasioned a lot of, “Honey, who did you say our sculpture is by?” conversations over the weekend.

4 Replies to “Dog Stories, Campus Climate, Mass Charter Parents, ESSA Accountability, CS Pipeline, Richmond Schools, And More!”

  1. Andy – I appreciate your response to Ms. Madeloni’s comments on charter schools. In my community, this is a common criticism of charter schools, which quite frankly I do not understand, and your comments highlight why. There are very real issues that we need to discuss regarding charters – enrollment and special education services in particular – but the “greater good” is not one of them.

  2. The Hamilton Project paper asserting successes under NCLB that need to be extended under ESSA is easily disputed. “Under NCLB, test scores and graduation rates improved, especially for children who had been low-achieving”: not really, on tests that aren’t constantly being prepped for, such as those of PISA; and graduation rates had long been improving before NCLB, and increased in many other countries as well, so to attribute that improvement to NCLB is not valid (an alternative explanation is the growing realization that options for early school leavers around the world have steadily disappeared). In addition, the opportunity costs associated with continuing with this mediocre improvement strategy are not being accounted for; so American families will continue to be well advised to opt out of out-of-date state schools whenever possible, and to demand education savings accounts to increase their options, while feeding as little money to an unreformed established blob as possible.

  3. Sometimes a situation is much better understood if it is examined at a personal, or local level. Let’s take charter schools. This is how I see it:

    The public school across the street from me is supported by taxpayers, who pay quite a lot each year. In return, the school is “owned” by the community who are welcome to participate in its governance, whether or not they have children at the school. This means they can visit the school, attend board meetings, complain about something they don’t like and vote for board members. If they suddenly have a child to take care of, they can enroll that child in the school and be assured that the child will be accepted. No waiting lists.

    Now if the school becomes a charter, an individual or corporation becomes the manager of that school and becomes autonomous. The only involvement the community now has is to continue to pay taxes. If they have a child, that child could be excluded for various reasons. Taxpayers now have no role except to keep paying.

    I am just speaking for myself, but I’d like to know how such a thing came about? Who voted for this hustle? Not I. (Wouldn’t we all like to start a business and have the taxpayers foot the bill, with little or no oversight?)

    That said, it is true that all parents should have choices. More and more states are allowing parents to cross district borders, but if that’s not possible, then the magnet school is ideal for offering parents what they want. There are various ways to offer options for parents, but tax supported schools MUST remain under the jurisdiction of the people who pay for them.

    As for the individual who wants his own school with complete autonomy, there is a solution for that as well. He or she should raise his own money and open his own school and make his own rules. That is called a private school.

    A public school belongs to the people and must remain with them. Yes, there is a greater good and that is called democracy.

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