- All public funds—produced by taxes, not by some mysterious government account
- Educational Choice—has been the parents' prerogative from time out of mind
- Personal rights—are protected by the government, but endowed by a Creator
Monday, March 30, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
- are public schools.
- are laboratories of innovation who partner with an authorizer institution
- must meet state standards and regulations—with flexibility
- produce high results
- are non-selective—not cherry picking students
- are in high demand
- must perform or face closure
Quotes from the President:
1—“in most states you now have a mechanism where you set up a public school -- so this is not private schools, these are public schools receiving public dollars”
2—“but they have a charter that allows them to experiment and try new things…and typically, they're partnering up with some sort of non-for-profit institution.”
3—“They are still going to have to meet all the various requirements of a state-mandated curriculum; they're still subject to the same rules and regulations and accountability….but they've got some flexibility in terms of how they design it. Oftentimes they are getting parents to participate in new ways in the school. So they become laboratories of new and creative learning.”
4—“Now, there are some charter schools that are doing a great job, and you are seeing huge increases in student performance.”
5—“One last point I want to make about these charters -- they're non-selective, so it's not a situation where they're just cherry-picking the kids who are already getting the highest grades; they've got to admit anybody.”
6—“And typically there are long waiting lines, so they use some sort of lottery to admit them.”
7—“Some of them are doing great work, huge progress and great innovation; and there's some charters that haven't worked out so well. And just like bad -- or regular schools, they need to be shut down if they're not doing a good job.”
Thursday, March 26, 2009
- An expedited process to dismiss underperforming teachers. (but don't put too much stock in the "expedited", "dismiss" or "underperforming" language.
- A commitment to pay-for-performance. (so long as the pay is a lot more and the performance levels are very accessible.
- Support for research-based innovation
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Sorry to borrow a tired Obama campaign metaphor, but the President's recent speech on education did add another powerful voice to the wave of interest for alternative/merit pay (or strategic compensation) as we are calling it at the Classical Academy. Karin Piper, an active charter school proponent and observer adds her voice in a post titled Bring On Merit Pay! at her charter school examiner. As we have written here, here, here, here, and here, the charter school community is leading the way on teacher pay innovation. The traditional public school system is locked, glued, strapped, and immobilized in every other way by the slavish teacher union devotion to equity. Merit pay isn't a quick fix, but those who dismiss it prematurely are stuck defending a system that's demonstrably broken.
We appreciate that larger systems such as Denver Public Schools and Jeffco are experimenting with merit pay, but even their best or promised efforts are still deeply compromised by the existing union power structure. To truly test merit pay in public education takes a charter school. As Karin says, bring it on!
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
This is the second in a series of posts about traits that I experienced as a student with Asperger's Syndrome (AS). If you don't know much about AS, there are lots of great books and websites out there. I'll pull together a resource list at the end of the series.
Lesson #2: My Emotions Undermine Me
Intellectually, I can be a survivor. Emotionally, I am often the first one “voted off the island.” I may present a flat affect most of the time, but that is only an attempt to keep control on the most erratic aspect of my personality. I have learned that emotional control is prized by every teacher in every classroom–the cardinal sin of our school culture is to lose emotional control. My inflexibility and insecurity mean I live in constant fear of catastrophic failure. As Karen Williams observed, “Children with AS rarely seem relaxed and are easily overwhelmed when things are not as their rigid views dictate.” Living with the constant fear of the next embarrassing failure can be incapacitating. This is partly why the incidence of depression and suicide is elevated for individuals with Asperger’s. Given the Hobson’s choice of keeping emotions unexpressed and succumbing to depression and self-injury, many Aspies accept the social stigma of losing composure and social status. This is why so many of us with Asperger’s embody “fragile vulnerability and a pathetic childishness.” Because I am so vulnerable, I need you to assertively protect me from emotional assault, and the consequences of my own emotional frailty.
1. Provide a quick exit. If I feel trapped in a situation where my emotional state is spiraling downward, I must have a safe and guaranteed exit. Give me a code word, a permanent pass, or a “get out of class free” card. No matter how important the academic or social lesson may be, there is absolutely no way I will learn or retain anything if I am frantic to preserve my composure. Robert Sylwester points out that emotional safety must precede learning. Psychologists know it too. If I fear my social/emotional safety, learning is already forfeit. Please don’t sacrifice my emotional identity for a lost cause. Let me retreat and learn another day.
2. Designate a safe haven. Depending on the school environment, I might need a quiet corner of the classroom, a special chair, or removal to a resource room, counseling center or library chair. Pre-determine the acceptable locations, in a cascade order and teach me the order. “Go to the resource room first. If it is empty, go to the library. If Mrs. Grey is not there, wait in the front office.” Assure me that I will not be penalized or punished for going to my safe haven. Protect me from ridicule or stigma by explaining to my classmates that I am permitted and encouraged to manage my learning needs by relocating when necessary.
3. Protect me from emotional injury. In the emotional herd called school, I am the weak and crippled. Other students can sense and see my vulnerability, and at their worst, they act like emotional predators–attacking my weakness. They mock me subtly, to avoid detection, but I’m too literal to get it–so they escalate the insults and sarcasm until I break down or you break in. In most cases, you discern the pattern before I do. If you tolerate the bullying, or worse yet, participate in it yourself, you make it clear that I am fair game. Please do the opposite. I’m the endangered species in your class, deserving and needing your protection. I’m not confident or sophisticated enough to guard myself. I’m counting on you.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
It is interesting to note that one of the main reasons for charter legislation was the hope that charters would create successful educational strategies that could be scaled in non-charter public schools. While KIPP has been extremely successful, few districts have attempted to replicate the model. This brings up an interesting question for society. If we have a proven model for success in educating students where non-charter schools have failed, then why aren't non-charter public schools replicating the model?
Thursday, March 12, 2009
1. Use concrete language. I misunderstand abstractions, allusions and idioms. They distract and confuse me. If you must, explain them to me in literal terms and check to see if I can translate them into useful understanding.
2. Incorporate visuals. I am so literal that the symbolism of language can escape me. Adding visuals–drawings, flow charts, maps, or pictures will amplify and consolidate my comprehension.
3. Be consistent. I crave sameness. I invest so much energy figuring out how to navigate your expectations, homework formats, lesson style and classroom management that I will give up and withdraw if you change things up. What may seem boring and predictable to you is life support to me. I appreciate repetition and redundancy–they give me the confidence I desperately need.
We had a great day at the California Charter Schools Association annual conference. Brian Carpenter was busy as well with several sessions. The three of us jumped out for lunch and had a great conversation about the next generation of charter school governance. Brian is one of the great authors and explainers of the charter school movement, and TCA is an example of the kind of good governance that Brian preaches.
I did make a good session on financial measures and charter schools. The interesting thing is that it promised a tool kit, which really wasn't the kind of tool kit that I expected, but it did give some suggestions for what a financial scorecard could look like for a charter school.
The good news is that our school meets all of the financial measures they proposed. So, now I'm thinking about what a financial scorecard might look like for The Classical Academy. You might want to think about what a scorecard would look like for your school.
We are now up and getting ready for our ten minute walk to the conference center and a light breakfast before the day's presentations begin. We'll have three sessions today--all in the afternoon, so it will be a busy and crazy afternoon.
One hope is that our strategic compensation session and our model can help The Classical Academy gain a portion of the Federal Grant money to support merit pay systems. We believe that our system can greatly benefit charters and later school districts around the U.S. A.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
- Is compensation for teachers in any way based on performance? N= 517
No 510 (98.6%)
- In light of the No Child Left Behind Act, does the district use any type of incentive to attract highly qualified teachers? N= 514
No 487 (94.7%)
So if you are looking for a healthy body, 98.6 is still a good number. But if you are looking for a healthy teacher compensation model that honors excellent performance and attracts the best teachers, stay away from New York!
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
TCA has successful athletic teams, an outstanding music program, had an average ACT score of almost 25 this past year.
TCA has over 1,500 elementary students on three campuses that feed the junior high and high school.
TCA has also implemented a strong merit pay (we call it strategic compensation) system for teachers.
TCA is innovative in Charlotte Mason style education, which is unique in the public school world. We are currently piloting a program with only 16 children in first grade classrooms, which will expande to grades 2 and 3 over the next few years.
The school also has successfully issued over $50 million in bonds to build its facilities, including a dual enrollment program that will begin in the fall with Pikes Peak Community College (on their land). This innovative program will provide a K-14 education all on one site if parents choose that direction.
As we've evolved and grown, we've also faced the challenges of life cycle processes. The school began as a sort of "mom and pop" organization largely run by a few administrators and a lot of volunteers. We've had to work through a lot of growing pains to figure out what it means to be a school of 2,600+ FTE (over 2,800 planned for next year). So we understand a lot about the necessary changes as well as the importance of good board governance through that growth.
We'll bring these insights to California in our four sessions as we assist the charter community nationwide to provide high quality education to our kids.
Merit pay will work because:
- It rewards those who perform
- People are motivated in part by financial compensation
- It rewards the right outcomes
- It ignores checkbox mentality
For example, academic achievement is a basic. It's fundamental. All schools should require this. However, this is not enough. In fact, a good merit system also eliminates those who don't meet the basic requirements. Therefore, academic achievement cannot be a primary component of merit. Merit must fit under the umbrella of strategic goals.
Because development of character is so important to academic achievement. It is likely that some elements of good character should be part of the merit pay system.
Things that should not be part of merit pay are:
- Additional degrees
- Licensing or certification
If applied correctly and strategically merit pay will work. It will require the courage to set a base pay that requires that teachers to help their students learn and that provides additional rewards for additional improvement or above normal involvement in training students to achieve more. If merit pay becomes an excuse to get an additional degree or to reward other activities that do not produce desired outcomes, then it will fail.
How about this for a list?
- An engaging teaching staff
- Good financial management and oversight
- A rational board that maintains a strategic direction
- A supportive parent community
- An administrative staff that supports the mission
- A cooperative authorizer
Some of these elements are more or less important at various stages of the charter's growth and development, but all are there and helpful at all stages to one degree or another.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Here are some interesting findings.
New schools performed better than existing schools.
Schools work better when principals can pick teachers.
Schools that take more radical steps to improve culture work better.
He also said that states should revise caps on the number of charter schools.
If the Gates' Foundation's results are any indication, then it should show public schools that they need to work to radically change the way they do business, and it should motivate charters to continue to create environments where great teaching occurs.
Information taken from the February 4, 2009 edition of Education Week.