Tuesday, July 31, 2012

GEM's Julie Cavanagh Debates KIPP's Mike Feinberg on Charters

Costco's monthly magazine, Costco Connections, with a circulation of 8 million, contacted GEM a year ago asking us to debate on the issue of teacher seniority. I wrote that piece in opposition to E4E leader Sydney Morris (GEM/E4E Debate Seniority in Costco Mag: I Go Manno.... ). This year Costco was kind enough to come back to us on the charter issue and they suggested Julie Cavanagh do the article based on her role in opposing the charter school movement. In the August issue Julie debates KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg.

Julie wrote the piece in June while in the last month of her pregnancy but she would have done it while Jack was being born if she had to.

Here is the direct link: http://www.costcoconnection.com/connection/201208#pg1

Vote online:  costcoconnection.com

Or email:  debate@costco.com include your address, and phone #

UPDATE: Read Gary Rubinstein: What they teach the new CMs about public vs. charter schools




INFORMEDdebate

CHARTER SCHOOLS are independent, tuition-free elementary or high schools that receive public money and private donations. They are not subject to some of the rules, regulations and statutes that apply to traditional public schools but are held accountable for delivering certain academic results.

Supporters say that charter schools offer a greater range of educational choices, more innovative programs and a higher quality of education than traditional public schools. Since charter schools are created by the communities in which they operate they can provide exactly what the community needs, supporters add.

Critics argue that charter schools do not necessarily produce better academic results and that public schools also have innovative programs. Charter schools consume critical tax dollars, they add, money that would be better spent in our traditional public school system.

What do you think?

from an expert in the field:


Mike Feinberg is co-founder of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), a charter school system (www.kipp.org).

THERE IS NO SUCH thing as a silver bullet for public education. Charter schools are merely one promising tool in our ever-expanding tool belt of approaches to K–12 educational reform. These autonomous public schools provide a testing ground for innovation, where ideas can be tried, refined and then shared with educators from across the public school system.

When we started KIPP, we weren't trying to solve all of America's education challenges; we simply wanted to set up our students for success in college and in life. Our plan? Hold classes from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, every other Saturday and three weeks in the summer; have teachers set high standards and be available via cellphone after hours; and focus on teaching both academics and character. Eighteen years later, with 109 charter schools in 20 states across the country, 84 percent of our eighth-graders go on to college.

Charter schools are based on a simple horse trade: Freed from the strictures of the traditional district system, public charter schools can use innovative new ways to engage and support students. If they don't meet goals outlined in their charter agreement with their sponsor, or authorizer, they can be closed. When done right, advancements don't stay within charter schools' walls; they spill out, sparking a vibrant dialogue among public educators. That way, the best school practices can reach many more students than charter schools would be able to serve on their own.

Cross-pollination between charter schools and traditional district schools is paying off. The Houston Independent School District's Apollo 20 program is implementing best practices from KIPP and YES Prep and other charter schools in struggling district schools, and the Spring Branch Independent School District in Houston is partnering with KIPP to start new schools within schools modeled after our practices. This spring, officials from 18 urban school districts serving more than 3 million students entered the eight-month-long KIPP Leadership Design Fellowship, a federally funded program designed to share best practices and explore how to cultivate visionary leadership in public schools of all kinds.

High-performing charter schools over the past decade have shattered the myth that your ZIP code defines your destiny. To understand the true value of charters, it's important to look at not only the results, but how they are proving what is possible for public school students across the country. 

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from an expert in the field:


Julie Cavanagh is a teacher, member of the Grassroots Education Movement and co-producer/narrator of The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman (http://gemnyc.org).

CHARTER SCHOOLS, in theory, appeared to be a good idea. Unfortunately, the charter school landscape has evolved into a politically charged campaign that aims to impose the same business-minded approaches that took our country to the brink of economic disaster in recent years.

In the past, race, gender, financial and/or immigrant status, or whether one had a disability, were the determining factors in access to a quality public education. The promise of one common public education system was to make these factors moot, to eliminate the access gap and to provide educational opportunity for all.

We have fallen short of that promise. Charter schools, however, do not bring us closer. In fact, they threaten years of progress in educational policy that have brought us closer to the goal of a free, fair, high-quality, integrated public education system.

Charter schools are not public; they are education corporations, many run as chains, and some for profit. Charter schools admit children only by lottery and counsel out children who do not adhere to their rules or standards. Charter schools serve far fewer English-language learners, students with special needs and those who qualify for reduced-price and free lunch as compared with public schools. Public means there is public oversight; charter schools are their own independent boards of education, and are overseen by boards of appointed, not elected, members with no or minimal parental involvement and empowerment.

Charter schools are not more successful or innovative than public schools. They have significantly higher staff and student attrition rates, which contradicts claims of high student achievement. Test scores increase as charter schools counsel out the neediest students. Yet, a study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University of 2,403 charter schools across the country showed that 80 percent of charter school students performed the same as or worse than students in public schools.

Access to a high-quality public education is a basic human and civil right; it is not something that should be won in a lottery. Instead of creating winners and losers, as the business model of competition and choice ultimately does, we should focus on the real reforms that will finally achieve the promise of one free, fair, high-quality and integrated public education system.

Find out more about this topic on the Web



• www.wikipedia.org  (Search “charter schools”)

• www.centerforpubliceducation.org  (Search “charter schools: finding out the facts”)

•www.chartergrowthfund.org 

YES from members:
Valerie Land Oxnard, CA

Charter schools give the disadvantaged an opportunity at an education they might not have received otherwise.

Jack Robertson Burnet, TX

[Charter schools] release government control of our choices for the best education for our children.

Maria Cristina Milo Miami, FL

My children have attended public, private and charter schools.The best education they have received has been while attending charter school.

NO from members:
Peter Fisher Madison, WI

The future of our country rests on public education and charter schools tend to be based on narrow issues and views.

Darlene Velasco Phoenix, AZ

Charter schools cater to kids who can't fit into a traditional learning system, only making them feel more isolated.

Kenneth Siderius Kalispell, MT

If parents were involved in public schools like they are in charter schools, we could achieve the same results.

============
The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.

14 comments:

  1. The bottom line is this: Charter schools were created due to teacher tenure. Awful teachers cannot be fired and are allowed to continue to teach our students. So many teachers work very hard in the years leading up to tenure and once they get it - the slacking begins. I see it all of the time! The ineffective teachers know very well the firing process is nearly impossible and extremely expensive - we all know it. There are some rotten apples in the system and need to go. Perhaps, if we were able to weed through the system, Charters would not have a chance! The UFT/AFT understands this so they are giving in and will eventually have to do away with seniority and tenure. It is coming!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, they were created to deal with kids living in abject poverty to see if we could ignore their lives at home and instead put it all on teachers to deal with.

      It hasn't worked.

      And your perpetuation of the nonsense about lazy teachers is just that--nonsense.

      Blaming teachers for society's failure to deal with poverty helps no-one.

      Our affluent kids are #1 in the world according to PISA; those lazy, tenured teachers seem to be doing something right.

      Delete
    2. Or, Please excuse my rant. I was upset that me and my sisters were arrested in public by lazy cops, accused of attacking a vet and paraded around to be laughed at.

      Delete
  2. I would love to see more debates like this take place in person. I think more of the public would be convinced of those on public education's side given the opportunity to see educators talk about these issues in person and from real experience.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I would be happy to host live debates on my radio show.

    https://www.facebook.com/TFTRadio

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm looking for a good response to one issue in this debate.
      Charter schools do counsel out those who don't follow the rules or function at lower levels; some special needs kids don't even get into charters in the first place.
      Why shouldn't a parent want to place their child in an environment where behavior issues and lazy learning habits are minimized by counseling out the kids who fall into that category? If not enough services are provided in public schools or when classes are too large for a single teacher to handle, not every parent will have the stomach for a good social justice position like inclusiveness, which will most likely work against the best interests of their own children.

      Delete
    2. JW,

      But that's precisely the divide-and-conquer insidiousness of charter schools: the system has been set up so that they thrive upon exactly that dynamic of austerity for under-resourced neighborhood schools that must educate the children charters won't take or retain, with the public schools then scapegoated and punished for the inevitable problems they face. It's called shooting the wounded.

      In many ways, the narrow, corporate definition of school choice, with charters as the current incarnation - although mon-pop charters better look out, because they may well eventually be replaced by even cheaper online schools - Is fundamentally and consciously to get every parent to think in terms of cutting their own deal, and leaving the hindmost to the dogs. That's not a world I want for my children or anyone else's.

      Your point about the primacy of parents doing what they see as best for their children is unarguable, but in my mind so too is the fact that charters are not real public schools, and people shouldn't pretend otherwise. Policy makers and the interests they serve have consciously established this as a zero sum game, so that the expansion of charters comes at the expense of the public schools and the neediest children they serve.

      Delete
    3. I understand the politics and the zero sum game you describe.

      Nevertheless, I wouldn't want my children surrounded by an unbalanced culture, which the lack of public will and funding has created. I've taught in variant NYC cultures and all grades, special ed and not special ed. The regular and faster learners are getting by all right, but far beneath their potential. There's just no time to give them the kind of attention they need, just as there's no time to give the poorer learners the attention they need. You know all that.

      What I have seen with some consistency, however, is that even "ordinary" teachers — they don't have to be especially gifted or super trained — can do a heck of a lot of good teaching when groups are small and no one is cutting up the class or staring out the window without moving a pencil across a page.

      Your history and argument fit perfectly with my progressive thinking, but don't yet work for me as a parent faced with a choice.

      I did make the choice to sacrifice some of the smallness and culture management you find in a village public school when I moved into the city and put my kids into NYC public schools. Friends thought I was nuts, but I felt my kids needed what the small community could not give them: a place to learn how to work, play, and generally get on with all kinds of people. If the school they'd be placed into were not going to be able to give them a fair shot at diversity and challenge (intellectual or otherwise), I wouldn't have made the move. The terrible fact is that most people do not have any kind of choice, and I cannot fault them for trying to get what they can along the same lines I did.

      The argument has to be honed so it can reach the hearts of parents smack in the middle of making that choice not to succumb to the lure of charters.

      Delete
    4. Your point about the necessity of reaching parents who confront this dilemma is spot on, and is perhaps one of the biggest challenges we face. It's also one the teacher's unions must develop a strategy for, since it is one of the few institutions with the resources and interests for doing so (although it's sometimes questionable whether they realize this).

      On a personal level, I'd still say you made the right choice for your children: the city itself can be one of the greatest schools, whatever your friends might say, or whatever the shortcomings your children may face in the schools they attend.

      Finally - and this is not meant as a rhetorical question - given the often repressive and authoritarian pedagogy practiced at charter schools, do you think the added resources and smaller class size are still worth the trade-off?

      Delete
    5. Yes, I believe I did make the right choice for them, but as I said, I did have choices. They came into the city at HS level, one remained, the other went back after a year (to the place where he could play basketball on his own terms!). But there were enormous benefits to spending even that short amount of time in the city. They developed wide and inclusive personalities and perspectives. They got to see social justice issues from the inside, learn how to take risks, be sensitive to all sides of issues, and most importantly: live free of the insular, wary, and proprietary feelings one can so easily develop living all the formative years in a small town.

      As for the non-rhetorical question in your last paragraph, I find myself looking hard at the words "repressive" and "authoritarian" and realize that I am grateful for the fair amount of exposure I got to this kind of teaching when I went to school in the 50s and early 60s . I really enjoy a studious environment, which allows each student in a roomful of many to have a silent space around them where they feel safe to use their mind without the fear of being interrupted. "Library silence" would be a good term for it. You can't often find that kind of atmosphere without someone controlling the behavior in the room and being both authoritarian and repressive— in a nice way, of course. None of my teachers were caustic or demeaning, though some were dull and unimaginative (which is human and expected). They gave the room structure, and I felt structured. I didn't enjoy all of it, but I always knew what was expected and what was coming next, and I knew I had to produce things from myself and not by communicating with a kid sitting across from me at a a group table. "Group" think and "group" activities happened in the gym and music rooms, not in the classrooms.

      Because I have a lot of training in music, I also developed a great respect for learning through repetition, memorization, and rote. Endless hours of scales, arpeggios, and etudes, and sure, people who actually have talent make those early years of scales and etudes sound pretty good. But, the point of all of that repetition is to build muscle memory into your hands and pattern memory into your brain. You learn to regulate time and rhythm and enhance your perception of pitch. None of this relies on new-fangled methodology: the pedagogy is as old as mankind ever tried to make music out of a hollow reed or a stretched animal skin. Much of it is endless repetition, often with half your mind just numbing out. But, after a certain point, you're freed up to actually make something artfully beautiful, or at least valid. In scholastics, it might be be multiplication tables, parts of speech, writing out tons of conjugations in foreign languages, memorizing poems, learning tables pretty much by heart. During this stage, the information you need to handle real thinking and execution later on gets embedded deeply into one's mind and habits.

      To come back to your question. I know charters have the reputation of having authoritarian and repressive pedagogy, and I would never want to expose my children to some of the teaching practices I've seen in videos of charter classrooms where the kids are being turned into robots and demeaned. But I do value quite a lot of what some educators would call repressive and authoritarian techniques. I've experienced so many good applications of this kind of pedagogy as a way to achieve the structure, "think space," and habits kids need when they're learning how to use their intellectual gifts.

      I have to run out now, so apologies in advance if some of the sentences above got garbled.

      Delete
  4. Let me chip in here. JW is right about parents wanting to give their kids the best advantage. And if there are kids disrupting in packed classes of mixed ability, the best performing kids suffer under any circumstances. In the old days there were top classes where these parents could get their kids into. It is no accident that the deformers went after these classes -- they defended charter creaming by saying there were always public schools that creamed -- not only the school but withing funneling kids into eagle, sp and any other means to segregate the classes. Once these were gone in the struggling schools like I taught in those parents had nowhere to go and charters were the answer. This was intentional -- to get the parents of top kids to race away from the neighborhood school and we can't blame them. We can rail all we want against what the deformers were doing but they executed their plan perfectly. Game, set. match for the death of public education. Without a union with the ability to expose all that was happending we are left helpless. That is why the struggle inside the union in Chicago , NY etc is the last chance left to put up a glimmer of a fight.

    ReplyDelete
  5. There is a huge flaw within the "No" argument. Making blanket statements about all charter schools immediately makes most of the comments in Ms. Cavanaugh's stand not only false but void. Charters vary so greatly from one to the other it is impossible to lump them all together and judge them as a whole. While some charters are accurately defined in her description, many of them are the exact opposite. Look at demographics for KIPP schools as mentioned in this article.

    "Charter schools serve far fewer English-language learners, students with special needs and those who qualify for reduced-price and free lunch as compared with public schools. "

    Wrong. Let's take the KIPP school in my city, Austin. The free and reduced lunch program makes up over 91% of the student population. Over 90% of the student population is Latino, may of which are ELLs. The ELL population does start trailing off at the high school level because students are actually exited out of the program due to their Telpas scores. At this point they are no longer classified as ELLs even though they were at one point classified as such.

    This is a very poor and almost sleazy form of rhetoric that she is implementing. She makes so many false statements that it would take hours to debate this. Is it possible that she is trying to round up money and attention for her documentary? I find it hard to believe that someone can be this uninformed or ignorant of the truth. I suggest doing some research on your own. Compare data of charter schools and the local school districts that are nearby. Look at the test scores. Look at what the parents, teachers, and students say about both. This information is available for you to access if you are really interested. I think you will find that many of the charters (specifically KIPP, YES, and IDEA to name a few) are outperforming their local counterparts running on smaller budgets, similar (or sometimes larger) class sizes, and a demographic that is composed almost entirely of a low socio-economic status.

    ReplyDelete
  6. By the way, I don't know if this is an assumption that people are making thinking that there are smaller class sizes in charters. Just because the whole school population is small doesn't mean the class sizes are smaller. It just means it is a small school.

    I have also noted many comments about creaming. Some charters do this. Many can't and don't. There has to be a pretty egregious situation for a student to be removed (assault, trafficking, etc.). Charters are so limited in funds that it is ideal for them to have as many students enrolled and sitting in class as possible. They receive funding based on their average daily attendance. Charters actually work very hard to keep students that may even want to leave due to extra hours or a more challenging overall education. Just because one student leaves, doesn't mean that seat is available that year for another student. Don't think that all of the parents are necessarily more involved, either.

    Do some research, look at data, make informed decisions not assumptions. This is ridiculous.

    ReplyDelete
  7. These got out of order because N. just told me he did not have computer access, so I'm reposting now what I had written to Michael a couple of days ago and does appear up above, but it might get overlooked in the thread . . .
    -------------
    Yes, I believe I did make the right choice for them, but as I said, I did have choices. They came into the city at HS level, one remained, the other went back after a year (to the place where he could play basketball on his own terms!). But there were enormous benefits to spending even that short amount of time in the city. They developed wide and inclusive personalities and perspectives. They got to see social justice issues from the inside, learn how to take risks, be sensitive to all sides of issues, and most importantly: live free of the insular, wary, and proprietary feelings one can so easily develop living all the formative years in a small town.

    As for the non-rhetorical question in your last paragraph, I find myself looking hard at the words "repressive" and "authoritarian" and realize that I am grateful for the fair amount of exposure I got to this kind of teaching when I went to school in the 50s and early 60s . I really enjoy a studious environment, which allows each student in a roomful of many to have a silent space around them where they feel safe to use their mind without the fear of being interrupted. "Library silence" would be a good term for it. You can't often find that kind of atmosphere without someone controlling the behavior in the room and being both authoritarian and repressive— in a nice way, of course. None of my teachers were caustic or demeaning, though some were dull and unimaginative (which is human and expected). They gave the room structure, and I felt structured. I didn't enjoy all of it, but I always knew what was expected and what was coming next, and I knew I had to produce things from myself and not by communicating with a kid sitting across from me at a a group table. "Group" think and "group" activities happened in the gym and music rooms, not in the classrooms.

    Because I have a lot of training in music, I also developed a great respect for learning through repetition, memorization, and rote. Endless hours of scales, arpeggios, and etudes, and sure, people who actually have talent make those early years of scales and etudes sound pretty good. But, the point of all of that repetition is to build muscle memory into your hands and pattern memory into your brain. You learn to regulate time and rhythm and enhance your perception of pitch. None of this relies on new-fangled methodology: the pedagogy is as old as mankind ever tried to make music out of a hollow reed or a stretched animal skin. Much of it is endless repetition, often with half your mind just numbing out. But, after a certain point, you're freed up to actually make something artfully beautiful, or at least valid. In scholastics, it might be be multiplication tables, parts of speech, writing out tons of conjugations in foreign languages, memorizing poems, learning tables pretty much by heart. During this stage, the information you need to handle real thinking and execution later on gets embedded deeply into one's mind and habits.

    To come back to your question. I know charters have the reputation of having authoritarian and repressive pedagogy, and I would never want to expose my children to some of the teaching practices I've seen in videos of charter classrooms where the kids are being turned into robots and demeaned. But I do value quite a lot of what some educators would call repressive and authoritarian techniques. I've experienced so many good applications of this kind of pedagogy as a way to achieve the structure, "think space," and habits kids need when they're learning how to use their intellectual gifts.

    ReplyDelete

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