Tuesday, December 28, 2010
"BSU has placed 23 percent on probation and required 10 percent to take corrective action. Another 10 percent either withdrew their charter or had it revoked by the university."
This could mean that charters schools are bad or that they need help. It surely means that BSU is working to ensure the charter school maintain a high quality program and administer their funds well.
Authorizers and school leaders could use BSU's model to work with their own school and create better charter schools as well as blaze a path for future schools to reduce the number of problems that they have when designing and implementing new programs.
Monday, December 27, 2010
The Bee quotes Gloria Romero, the head of the California chapter of Democrats for Education Reform as saying, "It's a donkey in the room. It's Democrats who have been tightly aligned with education's special interests year after year, decade after decade, and we haven't progressed. So we have to examine our conscience, our party, and really forge a new path forward."
Other democrats don't seem worried, but the good news for education reformers is that this process has begun in California. Let's hope this is an evolution that continues.
Monday, December 20, 2010
I still need to get everything in the right form for the poster session. It's a unique setting in which there is no formal presentation, but I'll be available to answer questions for those who come by and check out the materials that I have on display to discuss the topic.
I've presented this topic formally in Colorado, Texas, and Florida. I've had great feedback from all of those presentations. I'm looking forward to warm San Diego.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Education Week posted two interesting articles that may be related.
One article gave the results of a poll in which 78% of Americans stated that it should be easier to fire teachers.
The other article stated that poor performing schools rarely are closed or turned around.
Many of the comments on the web site on the poor performing schools focused on poverty and the apparently insurmountable obstacle it creates. However, that is not what the information in the article suggests. It simply says that bad schools are disproportionately located in poorer areas. The article doesn't say that poverty is the cause of bad schools. Poverty certainly plays a part in th educational process, but many good schools have shown that poverty may negatively affect education, but it doesn't prevent it.
The connection between these two articles is that if it were easier to fire bad teachers, leaders could more easily turn around schools. It isn't the only factor, but it is the case that we need to find ways to make sure that good teachers are in the schools that are performing poorly. One way to do that is to fire bad leaders and hire good ones. Another way is to fire bad teachers and hire good ones.
I'm not suggesting that turning around a school is easy. I am suggesting that school leaders should have ever option available to them, including firing teachers that are not effective.
While I'm not sure that I agree, the survey about teachers was mixed in the answer to whether or not teachers make enough money. Slightly more than half of the respondents said they didn't, but another large proportion of Americans think that teachers are adequately paid. However, the overall message that teachers should be easier to fire sends the message that if teachers expect more pay, then they'll have to give up some job safety, at least in the eyes of most Americans.
It is interesting that many argue against incentive pay, saying that teachers are not in it for the money and that more money won't make teachers better. On the other hand, they'll argue that teachers should make more money. I agree with the first part. Teachers are, by and large, not in it for the money. I also agree the more money does not make a teacher teach better. This is exactly why I also agree that until teachers are held to high expectations or lose their jobs, it is not appropriate to argue for higher pay across the board. Instead of calling it incentive pay, let's call it appropriate pay for a job well done. I don't think we want to put a carrot in front of teachers. They aren't horses. We want to pay them what they are worth. A bad teacher is worth less than a good teacher. The bad teacher is provided an incentive to leave the profession voluntarily. If teachers are in it because they passionately want to educate children, but can't do it, then they ought to passionately pursue another career and leave education to those who can teach.
Turnaround will take effort and changed ideas, there can be no disagreement about that. Until we see teachers less as interchangeable cogs and more as more or less capable professionals, we can't really turn around schools. Teachers are an incredible piece of the solution to our educational dilemma, but only if leaders can and will ensure that bad teachers either are made into good teachers or made to leave the profession.
Friday, December 10, 2010
The essence of the article is that it doesn't take a high tech classroom or loads of homework or constant assessment to educate students. Read it for yourself and see what you think.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
This is a brave experiment, and only time will tell if it works. Parent engagement is key to education, and we'll see if these parents are engaged in more than revolution.
The good news about this law is that schools can no longer simply exist on the status quo. They can't just assume that their funding will continue in perpetuity no matter what their results.
We'll keep an eye on this one as another step in attempts to reform American education and broken schools.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Other cities working with charter schools are Baltimore, Denver, Hartford, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans and New York City.
Both charters and traditional schools could gain from sharing ideas, facilities, group purchasing and other factors that would allow both cost savings and increased creativity and success in the classroom.
Some may fear that this blurs the lines between traditional public schools and charters, but if education is really about the kids, then that shouldn't matter much. If school leaders use this as an opportunity for real collaboration in raising both student and teacher expectations, then this could be a real break through in education.
The law, which was backed primarily by the union and Democrats, has some merits. However, doesn't it seem a bit strange to penalize districts purely based on class size and not on outcomes? This, again, is a situation in which inputs and not outputs are measured as a litmus test of a good school or school district. One wonders (or at least I do) whether the unions backed this proposal more for the benefit of teachers rather than students. (OK, I admit it. I'm a bit cynical on this one.)
I haven't looked into this deeper, but the Miami Herald article focuses on how many class rooms violated the statute, and not on by how much or what the results of the violating school districts are.
For example, one of the limits is that in kindergarten through third grade. Let's suppose that a district had 19 kids in all of the kindergarten through third grade classes, but had incredible academic results. Let's then imagine a school that is strictly adhering to the law. It has 18 kids in classrooms, but it's results are dismal. Which school is better?
The state, if it follows the letter of the law, will impose millions of dollars of fines on these school districts. Now, does that make sense? Take money away from schools simply because they have too many kids in a class room?
Then the school districts will appeal. That will take both time and financial resources.
The result of this law is to disrupt, not improve education. It distracts people from doing their jobs and puts the fight about education completely outside the discussion of excellent instruction or appropriate standards or graduation rates.
It seems pretty obvious that this attempt to regulate inputs can have a serious detrimental effect on outputs. Florida voters and legislators need to repeal this law soon and focus their legislation on options that actually influence the output of their educational system.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I realize that's a really controversial statement, but no more controversial than the statement made by Connecticut Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan.
"There needs to be dependability and stability of school funding," he said. "We cannot continue with this uncertainty."
There are many of us who think that uncertainty would be a lot better than stable funding of a failing system. This seems to be a real gap between the thinking of traditional educators who want to focus on tweaking the current system and others who believe that we need a new solution or at least major changes. Stability at the expense of real change just doesn't make sense.
I suppose if you think things aren't that bad, then the focus on dependable funding makes sense. On the other hand, if things are broken, then giving existing schools stable funding whether or not they deserve it makes no sense. It's a method of self-protection and a form of harmful welfare. It's like paying people to do jobs they aren't really qualified for because they've always had them.
Unless charter schools, magnet schools and other innovative programs and schools are funded appropriately, real change will not happen.
Douglas County in Colorado has proposed a program in which most of the funding would follow students and even that is being opposed. The truth is that innovation is driven by passionate people and people expressing their will. Unless the money follows those students who will another option, education reform will not happen and we'll continue to provide stable and dependable funding for a system that continues to perform at international averages.
Bill Henk, dean of Marquette's College of Education, says standards should be raised for admission to teacher preparation programs. Academics as well as personal and communication skills should be key factors, he said.
"My recommendation to teacher education is spend a lot of time on who gets let in the door to become a teacher," he said.
There was some good news. The U.S. is no longer dropping in the world education rankings, but to be average isn't exactly something to brag about.
It seems to me that while this is positive information, it still indicates that schools, parents, students, leaders, and all people with ideas about how to make education better need to keep their thinking caps on and participate in ensuring that U.S. kids are on pace with the best in the world.
I could use this as another blog to bash traditional schools. I won't.
It seems to me that if we look at some of the top scoring countries, there is a factor beyond teacher training or American school dysfunction. It seems absolutely true that Americans value many other aspects of life more than education. Entertainment and sports seem to dominate life, not just for students, but for parents as well. We talk a lot about life balance, not pushing kids too hard, allowing kids to be kids. While I agree with these sentiments at a certain level, it seems that the pendulum in America may have swung too far.
Whatever the results of Chinese education really are and will be in the next decade, it's clear that the U.S. has to wake up to the reality that we can't prop up our economy forever with debt and bail outs. Whatever we want our standard of living to be, we must build it by being competitive in the global economy.
Monday, December 6, 2010
In order to get into the school, some parents got in line at 6:40 the day prior to enrollment. The school boasts growing numbers as well as achievement.
Anti-charter school people cite averages about charter schools that they would have use believe prove that charter schools shouldn't exist. A school like Flagstaff should be emulated, not closed. This is just one more example of the potential of charter schools. The answer to the dilemma of averages is not to eliminate charter schools, but for both low performing charter schools and traditional public schools to follow the lead of high performing charter schools like Flagstaff.
Districts claim that charter schools are stealing students and revenue. It seems that in this case, the charter school has done nothing more than offer seats to students. When there is such a demand that parents will take an entire day sitting in a line to enroll their students for school, perhaps districts ought to rethink their approach to education. What would district schools have to do to get people to line up a day ahead in order to get students to enroll? Perhaps the answer isn't to eliminate school choice but to expand it?