Thursday, December 3, 2009

School Closings, ATRs, Charters, Rubber Rooms Are All Snakes in the Same Basket

Jeez, try to get away for a few days the all kinds of stuff start hitting the fan. More school closings - and the creation of more ATRs. Rubber rooms in the news and all kinds of other stuff on charter schools, using test scores to judge teachers, tenure and the Obama/Duncan Race to the Top to force the privatization model down the throats of state legislatures. These are all connected and one of the things we try to do here is link the various issues that may seem local to the big picture. Like it's not all about getting rid of Joel Klein as the UFT/Unity Caucus/New Action tandem would have you believe.

School closings and the creation of ATRs and rubber rooms are all part of the plan to privatize and de-unionize vast swaths of public schools, mostly in urban areas. And having a union leadership (the UFT/AFT is the only organization that has the resources to fight all of this) that either doesn't see the big picture (doubtful) or does see it, yet deliberately misleads the members and the public to think it is all about local stuff like BloomKlein puts people who want to resist things like school closings in a box. But more on school closings in a follow-up post.

For this post, let's start at the top and take a look at the overall plan in the use of charter schools as the wedge to break public control. I put this link at the top of the sidebar to a John Merrow (an ed deformer) podcast with Diane Ravitch, who savages Race to the top (listen carefully to some of Merrow's cloying questions).

Also check the link to the CAPE (PS 15, Redhook) piece (What Your Money Can and Cannot Buy) on the Medina article on charters sharing space in public schools.

Also keep an eye on the controversy over the charter school study of CMO's (Charter Management Orgs) being repressed by the Ed Sector (one of the leaders of the ed deform pack) and the excellent reporting coming out Alexander Russo's blog. This post there by Marc Dean Millot exposes some of the fault lines. Millot starts out with this:

Debra Viadero's article in today's online edition of Education Week ( Study Casts Doubt on Strength of Charter Managers) is worth reading if you are trying to determine the extent to which EdSector manipulated Tom Toch's Sweating draft, and whether it makes any difference. The gap was wide enough for Toch to disown EdSector's authorless Growing report, but Edsector argues that "the sort of editing process it went through would not be something out of the ordinary."

All I can say is that every research analyst should hope it is extraordinary, because if what has happened to EdSectors co-founder and co-director is the ordinary course of business in education policy research, the ordinary staff member is little more than an intellectual serf.

The first bit of new information in Viadero's report is Toch's accusation that EdSectorCMO Czar, Kim Smith, pressured management to excise financial and other insider information that cast doubt on the future of some CMOs as going concerns.
board member, New Schools Venture Fund founder, and

Read more

You can download Toch's original draft here. (Thanks to Leonie for putting the Ed Sector stuff together. If you are not on her listserve you are missing out on one of the best ways of getting educated on what's happening in NYC and beyond.)

Is the Battle Over Charters Just About Public Space?

This comment was posted on the Leonie Haimson moderated NYC Ed News listserve,

I have no problem per se with Charter Schools but great resentment when they go into used public school spaces, taking over libraries and science rooms, making public schools less effective. If they find/pay for their own space, then let them open… but not when they encroach on public space....

I find this argument all the time. That people think charters are ok as long as they find their own space. We need to look at the larger picture of the charter school movement even if in their own spaces as part of a plan to undermine the public school system and put most of the schools in the hands of privateers, where large chains of charter schools (through buyouts and consolidations - the next phase) will control the education system and drive out public schools. Think Walmart and how small businesses were driven out, leaving a monopoly in many communities. Mom and pop charters may seem cute. But so were the local hardware stores driven out by Home Depot and Lowes. That is the future of urban school systems. Capitalism capitalizes and leads to bigger and bigger. The competition will be between national chains of charters like KIPP, Victory, etc. If there is to be a monopoly, the public should control it.

My Nov. 9, 2009 post had links to The Plan to replace public school systems and other articles of interest.

Here, in a series of posts over the last few days at the Schools Matter blog, we see the plan to undermine public education (and of course to destroy teacher unions) laid out by a former Bushie in early 2008. Now ask yourself: exactly what is the AFT/UFT doing in response? Think: who needs public education, let's get our share. Thanks to Michael Fiorillo for finding this gem (and don't forget, GEM in NYC right now is the only organized opposition to THE PLAN.)

Kenneth Libby laid out the plan to eliminate the public option in education in this post:

From the Vault

This is part of an essay written in early 2008 by AEI/Fordham's Andy Smarick, a former Bush II Domestic Policy Council member tasked with K-12 and higher education issues:

Here, in short, is one roadmap for chartering's way forward: First, commit to drastically increasing the charter market share in a few select communities until it is the dominant system and the district is reduced to a secondary provider. The target should be 75 percent. Second, choose the target communities wisely. Each should begin with a solid charter base (at least 5 percent market share), a policy environment that will enable growth (fair funding, nondistrictauthorizers, and no legislated caps), and a favorable political environment (friendly elected officials and editorial boards, a positive experience with charters to date, and unorganized opposition). For example, in New York a concerted effort could be made to site in Albany or Buffalo a large percentage of the 100 new charters allowed under the raised cap. Other potentially fertile districts include Denver,Detroit,Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Oakland, and Washington, D.C.

Third, secure proven operators to open new schools. To the greatest extent possible, growth should be driven by replicating successful local charters and recruiting high-performing operators from other areas. Fourth,
engage key allies like Teach For America, New Leaders for New Schools, and national and local foundations to ensure the effort has the human and financial capital needed. Last, commit to rigorously assessing charter performance in each community and working with authorizers to close the charters that fail to significantly improve student achievement.

In total, these strategies should lead to rapid, high-quality charter growth and the development of a public school marketplace marked by parental choice, the regular startup of new schools, the improvement of middling schools, the replication of high-performing schools, and the shuttering of low-performing schools.

As chartering increases its market share in a city, the district will come under growing financial pressure. The district, despite educating fewer and fewer students, will still require a large administrative staff to process payroll and benefits, administer federal programs, and oversee special education. With a lopsided adult-to-student ratio, the district's per-pupil costs will skyrocket.

At some point along the district's path from monopoly provider to financially unsustainable marginal player, the city's investors and stakeholders--taxpayers, foundations, business leaders, elected officials, and editorial boards--are likely to demand fundamental change. That is, eventually the financial crisis will become a political crisis. If the district has progressive leadership, one of two best-case scenarios may result. The district could voluntarily begin the shift to an authorizer, developing a new relationship with its schools and reworking its administrative structure to meet the new conditions. Or, believing the organization is unable to make this change, the district could gradually transfer its schools to an established authorizer.

You can practically check off each of Smarick's suggestions for a pro-charter policy environment, particularly in places like Los Angeles. The general silence of Right-wing education "reformers" (hell-bent, in reality, on destroying and privatizing public education) is not a coincidence - they're largely happy with Obama/Duncan's education agenda.
Welcome to "third way" centrism.

More Schools Matter articles on charters:

After Years of "Innovation," NJ Charters Perform No Better Than Poorest Public Schools

The Real Effects of Corporate Charter Schools on Public Schools

CEO Pay in Charter School Chains

Gloucester Parents Stage Protest Against Crooked Charter School Approval

NOTE: Make sure to check the sidebar regularly for new snippets. I add to it every day, with the latest near the top.

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