Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Thought... Not A Proposal

Here's a student whose family has chosen to opt out of a system that provides community-based education and has chosen to matriculate at a school of choice. Over the course of the current or future school years, this student fails to live up to the educational standards at the school and is exited/ consoled out/ kicked-out. Why does this not carry the same weight and implications of an expulsion? Presumably,* the student's actions are egregious or the school would continue the process of providing an education, so... why not? Shouldn't we look at these things in the same light? Why is the failure to meet the expectations in one environment viewed as somehow more-okay than the same failure in another? Does it matter?

*This is, of course, a rather large assumption.


Blogger KauaiMark said...

"...(If?) Over the course of the current or future school"

I think you're missing a word because I had to read this paragraph 3x before I realized there might be an "if" missing.

10:41 AM  
Blogger ms. frizzle said...

The same weight in what sense? For the student, or for the school?

8:12 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...


Suspension/ expulsion rates factor into the way shools are ranked and categorized. For the student, expulsion carries implications for his/her ability to register in schools, etc.

I was talking to a friend who has students who have been in four small/charter schools in four years. This can't be a good thing.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

I just read Joanne Jacobs' book on Downtown College Prep. DCP clearly has a number of students who "don't make it," and they do some pretzel-like rationalizing so they can claim they kicked a student out for disciplinary rather than academic reasons.

(I was planning to review the book on the blog where I guest-post, -- though I've been a little overwhelmed and have only have the attention span to read and comment on other blogs for a couple of weeks. I'll get to it.)

I'm seeing some common "house of cards" elements among charters serving disadvantaged students that are perceived as successes. I'll have to blog more on that later.
I just got the book "Teachers Have it Easy," which appears (I have only dipped in so far) to gush over Leadership and a couple other charters. This is ironic, since that book is all about compensating and rewarding teachers more generously, while the charter movement is all about busting teachers' unions. I'm not sure if the authors don't get it or are being dishonest -- either of which makes me sad, because I'm a fan of 826 Valencia, whose movers and shakers wrote that book.

The book is particularly effusive about Leadership Charter, which is actually in imminent collapse. (I know this as a parent on the ground in its school district and its neighborhood, and a 9th-grade parent at that.) It's distressing, because that impairs the rest of the book's credibility for me.

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Lori Jablonski said...

As usual, you get to the heart of the matter. I've already weighed in here and elsewhere about the students who arrived in my classroom after they were asked to leave their charter schools. Much more to say, but like Caroline I'm pressed (finals time!)...let me just add that shuffling students from charter to charter and then eventually to the traditional publics reveals the hollow core of the accountability mantra, that is to those willing to really see it.

9:51 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...

My take on DCP -- and sorry, I'm not gonna buy the book, no matter how many times and in how many places it is advertised and propped up -- is they will take students from strong families, with average-to-strong academic skills, and do really good work with them. They are willing to work with kids with previously demonstrated success. This is an old tale at this point.

I'm watching with great interest a former student who is a freshman there. Through 7th and 8th grade, he closed a four-year achievement gap, leaving our school proficient in both L.A. and Math. He is not yet considered fluent in English and succeeds more because he busts his ass than because of reserves of natural talent. Very little comes easy. If DCP shepards this young man to a quality four-year school, they will have truly done something, because I don't believe it would have happened at the 6,000-kid, no-dress-code, gang-infested disaster of a place he was heading to.

If they don't, take their charter away.

6:56 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Well, you can't take their charter away, as you know if you've followed SFUSD politics over the past 5 years. SFUSD couldn't take Edison Charter Academy's charter away, period -- the state took over running the school.

SFUSD did take Urban Pioneer's charter away after two kids died -- DIED -- due to the school's clear negligence. UP was also in financial shambles and bouncing teachers' paychecks; it was committing academic fraud by graduating students with far fewer credits than required; the president of its board of directors, a laywer, was intimidating would-be whistleblowers into silence by threatening to sue them. Gee, what's not to like? There was still an explosive, outraged, divisive, kid-harming community outcry -- ignited by both the Californis Charter Schools Assn. paid mouthpieces and clueless lefties -- when SFUSD moved to revoke the charter.

After Jacobs' book and the mass press gushfest over DCP, God Himself could not revoke that charter.

8:44 AM  
Blogger ms. frizzle said...

My take on DCP -- and sorry, I'm not gonna buy the book, no matter how many times and in how many places it is advertised and propped up -- is they will take students from strong families, with average-to-strong academic skills, and do really good work with them. They are willing to work with kids with previously demonstrated success. This is an old tale at this point.

I read the book, and it didn't sound this way to me. It is absolutely true of many/most charters - and my school, which is not a charter, incidentally. The interesting thing is that as a school builds a reputation for success, I think it gets the attention of the more strategic parents, and over time the population will shift towards the more advantaged.

I have such mixed feelings about the type of school I work in. I would most likely not have stayed in teaching in my old school, I would have burned out. And while the kids are the more advantaged in their neighborhood, they're still pretty damn disadvantaged. I don't think it would help anyone if my school did NOT exist. But it doesn't really square with my big-picture ideas about what public schools should be doing.

I agree with you that being asked to leave a school should count for the kid's record, and in the school's numbers. Kids everywhere are shuffled around in all kinds of underhanded ways that make schools or the kids look better. Deals are cut. And so on. Charters do it more than most, but they're not alone - my old large public school traded kids around, found ways to "get rid of" the ones that no one could handle, you name it. And look at the stuff that was going on with drop-outs in Houston. I am overwhelmed by the level of corruption - some ill-intentioned, some just survival tactics - that I see in the schools.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Sure a traditional public school may shift a problem kid into another district public school one way or another, but the district is still dealing with the kid.

The point when a charter school does it is that they never have to set eyes on the kid again, plus they get to pat themselves on the back and get millions of dollars' worth of PR from the Bush administration, the Hoover Institution etc. about how fabulous they are compared to that rotten old school district, the one on which they're dumping the problem kids. The press, which is right now totally enthralled with charters, laps it up.

I agree that other kids -- especially at-risk kids -- benefit from having the problem kids shoved out of the school. But it's not a long-term solution, unless we want to just set up separate schools for higher-functioning and lower-functioning kids and not pussyfoot around it.

Also, the practice feeds the notion that charters have some magic going. Actually, a district school that siphoned off the higher-level disadvantaged kids and then pushed out the ones who were problems would do just as well. And the whole mystique about charters' being so superior is really hurting other schools and kids.

7:49 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...

Ms. Frizzle,

I'm late in responding, but I think you make a good point. I do not believe your kids would benefit if your school did not exist, just as I cannot argue with the passion a KIPP school leader had when talking about the need for kids from the "worst" neighborhoods in San Francisco to get a quality education now. All I can say is, in terms of systematic reform, these schools do not go far enough. The "other" kids deserve a quality education, too. Of course they do, we know that. We need to work to give it to them, and be careful that the presence of a however many choice schools is never viewed as sufficient progress toward that goal.

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The idea that DCP starts with academically successful students is ludicrous. DCP recruits students who earned D's and F's in middle school: Currently, two-thirds of ninth graders start more than two years behind in reading and math skills. Ninety percent come from Mexican-American families, 61 percent free lunch, 38 percent English Learner, half of parents have an elementary education. Their work habits are nonexistent.

All graduates in the first two classes have gone on to four-year colleges; 89 percent remain on track to earn a degree. The school is a 7 on the Academic Performance Index compared to all schools, a 10 compared to similar schools.

Re pretzel-like logic: The book describes two boys who were kicked out for disciplinary reasons. Buddy tried to bring a knife to school. The other boy had been fingered as the school sneak thief, though the publisher's lawyer wouldn't let me say that. He'd flunked eighth grade, but his school's counselor begged DCP to take him off the middle school's hands. DCP took him with a special contract that covered academics, effort and behavior, which he'd violated in every way. Rather than accuse him of stealing, the principal kicked him out for violating the contract to avoid making another student "snitch" on him. If he'd earned F's but behaved they'd have let him stay and come back for a second try at ninth grade. Quite a few students do just that.

Some students don't make it at DCP, especially those who start ninth grade with elementary reading levels and serious emotional problems.

-- Joanne Jacobs

3:11 PM  

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