Where are my social dividends?










Forewarning: I do not have a strong statistical background so I am always skeptical when I read something as I need to think about and evaluate the information a bit longer than others to make sure I understand. If I miss a detail, please be kind enough to send a correction.

Charter schools are a business entity. They are considered non-profit due to how they re-apply their ‘earnings’ instead of giving the earnings to shareholders. In what one might call a twist up of words, non-profits are supposed to be for the benefit of the community which is why they have certain tax advantages, etc. This means instead of being an individual shareholder obtaining dividends, you in effect become a stakeholder in your community and should receive the type of social dividends which benefit your community and make it better.

 With this in mind, I find it important for charter schools to be accurate in reporting their statistics in the same manner a for profit corporation on the NYSE reports. There are GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) rules and any accountant should be able to read and interpret the information in the same way if the books are not cooked and the aim of the company is not to mislead the shareholders. Unfortunately, charter schools are by and large allowed manipulate the books in a variety of ways (this includes grant reporting and ADA monies) and they do. This then allows them to also manipulate and actually distort the data as there are even less people willing to spend the time on non-financial information evaluations.  Charter schools follow ‘data’ on how to appeal to specific groups of people as indicated by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey  which was conducted June 21 through July 22, 2013. This data demonstrates how different categories of parents think, hence, it is easier to market targeted materials.

 The issue at hand is how charter schools report out students who go to college, graduate college and indeed produce a social dividend for a community.  This is how all great non-profits should be evaluated. Unfortunately, charter schools have never been called to prove the social dividend. I had to question this issue as I worked for a charter school and later continued questioning the morality and ethics of charter schools based on what I now know about the background story.  The story of self promotion to those who wish to promote charter schools rarely matches the reality, thus, there must be a marketing department to distort and mis-convey the facts.

Here is another look at data from a different view.

According to Jill Tucker over at The San Francisco Chronicle, I should note there is a difference  between college ready, expecting to get a high school diploma or taking the GED.  I believe this is called journalist clarity.

In 2009, about 600 African American males started high school in the Oakland school district with Thomas and Olajuwon. Of those, an estimated 80 to 100 graduated college-ready. Another 200 were expected to get their diplomas, but not with UC or CSU admission requirements. Others took the GED, or would continue in adult school. Still others spent time in jail.

During those same four years, 31 Oakland public school students ages 11 to 19 were killed across the city. Most of them were shot and most were African American males.

I note this as college ready does not mean the same thing as going to college, completing college, obtaining a degree and providing social dividend.  For charter schools to actually do something different from any other public school, they need to produce the same amount or greater of students who actually attend college and graduate as every other public school in America is charged with getting students college ready – the goal of public education.  This being said, it should be easy peasy for Aspire Public Schools (the largest in California) and KIPP to produce statistics which demonstrate this trend.  This, to my knowledge has not occurred. In fact, what has occurred is the actual removal from Aspire Public Schools of the map showing where their graduates go to college and no evidence can be found on the website for how many students (after 20 years in business) have graduated college, producing a societal dividend substantially different from other public schools.

Out on 21 August 2013 is data from ACT showing:

“The readiness of students leaves a lot to be desired,” said Jon Erickson, president of the Iowa-based company’s education division.

The ACT reported that 31 percent of all high school graduates tested were not ready for any college coursework requiring English, science, math or reading skills. The other 69 percent of test takers met at least one of the four subject-area standards.

Just a quarter of this year’s high school graduates cleared the bar in all four subjects, demonstrating the skills they’ll need for college or a career, according to company data. The numbers are even worse for black high school graduates: Only 5 percent were deemed fully ready for life after high school.

The report’s findings suggest that many students will struggle when they arrive on campus or they’ll be forced to take remedial courses — often without earning credits — to catch their peers.

The data reveal a downturn in overall student scores since 2009. Company officials attribute the slide to updated standards and more students taking the exams — including many with no intention of attending two- or four-year colleges.

Under ACT’s definition, a young adult is ready to start college or trade school if he or she has the knowledge to succeed without taking remedial courses. Success is defined as the student’s having a 75 percent chance of earning a C grade and a 50 percent chance of earning a B, based on results on each of the four ACT subject areas, which are measured on a scale from 1 to 36 points.

My sense would be every charter school in the U.S. would wish to report out their great ACT and SAT scores for the reason it resonates to some extent the READINESS for any college coursework requiring English, science, math or reading skills.  Any charter school should be tooting their horn regarding the average scores of their students.

I do not have the documentation (hopefully as you read this, you will be able to supply it to me if you know the piece I am referring to), however, I did hear a piece on KQED which regarded how getting a student to college is not enough. In fact, not all colleges are the same and getting children of color to college if the college is not top tier, does not improve rocking the boat and changing the social dividends – in stead it perpetuates it as status quo.

Aspire Public Schools has managed to use data from CREDO (The Center for Research on Education Outcomes – Stanford University) in an odd context. When I read the full report, noted in the URL above, there is a distortion of how one would perceive what is in the full report vs. the carefully selected portions Aspire pulled out to use.

CREDO uses data to show the minute detail of how charter schools have developed their students over time in comparison to other similar schools.  In looking at the data over a 20 year time period, there is an improvement although I would be negligent in stating this improvement is earth shattering or worth of great praise. I will let the data speak for itself.

The national study shows the following for reading and math: Although there is study improvement, 56% of charter school students have no significant difference in reading scores as measured by CREDO than regular public school students. 25% have shown a significant improved difference and 19% show a significantly worse difference.   There is no specific data from Aspire as they are lumped into the national study. In either way, they neither benefit from or substantially detract from the rather sad statistics.

If I break this down, it means only 25% of students in charter schools have shown gains while 75% of students in charter schools were comparable or worse……..Is the effect of changing 25% of students enough social dividend in reading? Should the amount of students positively effected be greater as Aspire has been around for 20 years. Aspire touts how they have the best teachers, systems and data….the statistics are not demonstrating, in my mind, substantial social dividends which I could not have gotten with just improving the public schools over all.

For math, the data is even worse. 40% of charter school students showed no significant difference in gains for math, 31% of students in charter schools fared significantly worse and 29% of students fared better. This means 29% of students in charter schools nationally had improvement while 71% fared the same or worse. Again, this is not sufficient data to show any charter school has leveraged a better system overall.

When more students show no benefit or worse benefit, there is something wrong with your program. It should be the other way around.  If this were a business having to report to shareholders instead of stakeholders, this company would fold.

As a social investment, I am not seeing where charter schools are delivering the goods.

Careful where you set your aim. The charter sector is getting better on average, but not because existing schools are getting dramatically better; it is mainly driven by opening higher- performing schools and by closing those that underperform. Our analysis suggests that the standards of performance are set too low, as evidenced by the large number of underperforming charter schools that persist. The point here is that, as with students, setting and holding high expectations is an important feature of school policies and practices. More focus is required of authorizers and charter school governing boards to set high performance and accountability standards and hold charter schools to them. – CREDO

This is where the Papa John’s piece on Yahoo comes in.  You can call your ‘ingredients’ whatever you wish. You should also be willing to let outsiders examine the ingredients and most of all, you should be proud enough to add in your own data as comparison. In this instance, Aspire Public Schools has failed. I am guessing this is the same for other charter schools as there have been no interesting news flashes in any of the usual educational journals which would love to pounce on this great news.

Another aspect of this issue is how Aspire is spreading to Tennessee.  Aspire needed to do this as financially they could not make it on the same budget as other public schools in California. They were ‘drowning’ and in fact have not merited the same amount of donations year over year as they had hoped for.  The CFO has been cautious in how he couches this scenario, however, the original goal of Aspire was to EXCEED the other schools in the region on the same budget. This has not happened or at least not in a statistically relevant manner.  This relates to the piece from The New York Times on how Philadelphia is borrowing money to open the schools and people are questioning if the schools are even worth opening, which leads back to the quote two paragraphs up from CREDO.

While charter schools continue to advertise their wares, I continue to be skeptical.  I need to see the following and wish CREDO could produce the data:

Just how many students of charter schools have gone to college, how many have graduated in 4, 5, 6 years?

After 20 years, I would think Aspire Public Schools has to have some of this substantially important data.

This would tell me if the taxes I pay which pays the ADA of charter schools is yielding social dividends in my community.


Conundrum 6,875,248,312 – High test scores AND students not graduating???


Poor Jill Tucker at The San Francisco Chronicle.  She has been given the worst tasks – writing anything positive regarding education when the smoke screen and mirrors brought to us in California  via NCLB, The Bush Years, SDAIE requirements, charter schools, Proposition 13 and so forth are mind bendingly awful. These ‘fixes’ appear most awful when seen through the rear view mirror while  people such as Michelle Rhee are driving forward at 100 MPH and throwing  crap out the windows of said vehicle –  at teachers.

Apparently in all the positive accolades regarding test score improvement, some one some where was neglecting to look at the sign ahead regarding a CLIFF.    Admittedly there are problems such as those of Nina Collins which are unique and definitely different.  I can not imagine this is the story for the other 1,899 projected problem students.  How could so many students be missing units?  How could so many students be misdirected? Are the teachers going to be blamed/shamed again – for this?

None of the graduation requirements are new. In fact, these requirements have been around forever. What is new is parents and community members believing with their shallow little hearts and brains it has all been up to teachers. I am amazed the spin has not yet started for the blame game.

I really wonder if we had changed our focus just a bit from the prize of test scores to the reality of successful course completion, parents being held accountable, less drama surrounding how many charter schools can be propped up and reviling teachers if we would have made the ‘difference’ necessary for this article to never have been written.  It is about focus. When we allow charter schools and the slippery slopes of test score calculations to become our focus, we let other, blindingly obvious problems slip into the background.   No one could ever convince me they did not see this phenomenon coming – unless they were so busy following Michelle Rhee they simply lost their mind.

Teachers do not control the variables which bring about these types of conundrums – administrators control these issues. I hope people look up from what ever it is their head was buried in and recognize the problem – it is not test scores, rather, it is what we chose to focus and worship as the prize.

Right, rights, wrong and totally wrong!


I could not help but read this piece, sigh in dismay and then realize, alas, it was a teachable moment – for parents and for the children they raise.

I have rights. My rights include working in a safe place and being treated professionally.  I have the right to free speech and expression of my views, within reason – I may not incite a riot.  I have the right to teach in a classroom, at a school where students are desirous of learning.   I have a right to work with principals, students and  parents who treat me professionally and with respect/dignity.

There are countless times when I may wish to demonstrate  what ‘stupid’ looks like in action, but I do not attach a name to it as the participants know who(m) they are.  Stupid in action is instructional.  I talk to people who practice ‘stupid’ and point it out and discuss alternatives as frankly, it is embarrassing enough to be an American, I don’t need people doing stupid here and abroad. I complain when I have an alternative way to solve something – not because I need to complain. Complaining is easy and everyone/anyone can do it. Not every one is smart enough to address the issue and create a solution.

My students and their parents have rights. My students have the right to an education in an environment worthy of learning.  Since all my students have this right, there are times when I need to ask students to leave until they can get their behavior in order to be in an environment of studiousness-for themselves and classmates.   My students have a right to question how I grade, what the purpose/rationale of an assignment is, due dates, books we read and so on.  Fortunately for me I am not a neurosurgeon or ER doctor and so I can CHANGE something if it is not working and no one dies (they may feel sick inside but no one dies from an education).

The parents of my students have rights. They have a right to meet with me at a scheduled time and I expect them to exercise that right. Parents have a right to meet with me when it will not effect my other students, which is why I schedule appointments.   They have a right to question grades, the purpose/rationale of an assignment, due dates, books and so on.  Parents and students have these rights as long as they use them in a reasonable amount of time.  It is not considered an emergency for me  two weeks after the fact (assignment turned in, grades went out, etc.) that a student is failing and I have done due diligence in written notices, phone calls and multiple forms of contact. It may feel like an emergency to the parent and the student, but again, it is not as I am not a neurosurgeon or ER doctor.  Parents have the right to attend my class/school with their child if their child is expressing untoward behavior and not able to productively participate in a quality learning environment.  Parents have the right to parent their children and not expect me, the teacher to do their job.

Since my students and their parents have rights, I do not appreciate or like when issues are not addressed with me. In fact, I find it immature and an abuse of power when a student/parent goes above me – because they can.  It does not inspire respect when people do things because they feel they have ‘power’ to laud over me as opposed to real power in which they can have a conversation and deal with solutions.  It makes me feel disrespected (dissed is the street term) and unappreciated as I put extensive time and effort into my practice as an educator.

When students (in the case in the article above) and parents do things which are inherently mean, I do not find the humor.  It is called bullying.  When parents teach children this skill, they open their children up to a very undignified way to go through life as their child does not become a problem solver.  Children need to learn that the world is filled with adversity and one way around it is to talk about it and work for alternate outcomes.   When students use a power play/grab as noted in the article above – because they can, they lose sight of the true issue and again do not become problem solvers.

By Grade 4, students should have the ability to state an opinion, ask a question and think about a potential alternative outcome to a problem.   Not everything in life makes us happy but we can discuss it.  After Grade 4, when parents are still  the ones coming to the teacher, the student is prevented from developing self efficacy and advocacy throughout their lives.

When parents work with students to intentionally create problems at school, it is unacceptable. It is disruptive to everyone and does not demonstrate the skills necessary to function in the real world for very long.  When principals and other administrators support intentional bad behavior (from parents and students) at school, it diminishes the professionalism of education.

It is wrong for bad behavior to go unpunished – this does not mean something which physically hurts, rather something which emotionally hurts. It is okay for students and parents to apologize, in writing, and explain what they learned.  I apologize to my students and their parents often as I know I am only human and can not do the Sisyphean task of teaching 150%, even though I would love to.

Words carry power – they carry the most power when we use words with meaning, purpose and good intentions.

Selling Out and Profit Making in Education

Years ago education was the space for passionate people with a trenchant sense of appreciation for the community and world.  It was the place of Caldecott  Award winning books, old school Milton-Bradley, Hasbro, Fisher-Price and hands on.  It was the age of ‘doing’ and included all manner of creative thinking.  Those of us involved in it had studied subjects such as Piaget, neuro, psychology and development.  One might say it was the pre-industrial education revolution.

There was no specific time when pre-industrial education became post-industrial waste as it is still occurring. What is distinctly different is the characterization of the ‘sell out’ and the justification for ‘selling out’ by the very people who supposedly had their hearts and souls in education.  I understand how toy manufacturing companies were able to mass produce more games. I am unclear where they went from thoughtful and creative to mass-produced ‘stuff’ which needed to be marketed.  An example is the slow deterioration of Fisher-Price with amazingly thoughtful pieces related to many aspects of society (farming, cars, etc.) to the mass-produced schlock of knock off plastic kitchens with myriad assorted bits and pieces resembling a child version of Ikea madness.

The change over was gradual. It is somewhere in notes from board meetings and marketing ideas and profitability studies. What is missing from these same records is how the new-new thing fits into the Montessori  or Waldorf concept, has anything to do with observations Piaget made or how it developmentally enhances the environment for children.  The see-saw tipped and $$$ began to be far more virtuous than learning.  Learning, in and of itself, has no value until it is applied, whereas one could ascribe value to learning by attaching an object(s) which was thought to ‘improve’ the learning process.

We went from the very cool toy store and/or bookstore in town with wooden puzzles and wood trains and cloth dolls to Toys R Us.  While it was happening, seemingly few people aside from professional educators noticed the change in product. Not just the quality, but the quantity and type.  Games became things which required batteries and less thinking. The only doing was inserting the battery…..Calculators came into vogue such that if you could ‘do it’ on a calculator, who needed to learn the underlying concept.  In this sense, professional educators assisted TI in overtaking maths and making outstandingly HUGE profits.

Calculators became the standard-bearer for learning math quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, no one who studied education was truly consulted and new math came into vogue. Algorithms? What are those? Where is the button on the calculator?  Flash cards and Cusinaire Rods and all the rest were practically buried en masse in cabinets if not thrown out in the trash by parents who wanted their child to ‘learn’.  Anyone caught with the actual tools of learning were castigated and treated as if they were stone age hominids.

Calculators morphed into computers, the worlds supposed greatest educational opportunity. No one would learn without a computer. The Luddites were scorned.  The backlash created more pre-schools committed to developmental learning (Montessori, etc.) and more private schools which were ‘low tech’ learning academies – they were not quite ready to jump onto an untested, not tried and true concept.

And in the midst of this, learning, most especially at the collegiate level was viewed as penance. The big universities suddenly rebuilt dorms and student centers to entice the brightest and best to their campus. Charter schools popped up like spring bulbs long asleep under cold earth.  In order to avoid the perceived ‘penance’, ITT, University of Phoenix, Boston Reed and other pay to play colleges sprouted and milled tons of underperforming graduates who could use calculators and turn on computers AND had a diploma to prove it.  The founder/CEO of University of Phoenix has a ‘beyond’ mansion he is currently trying to sell off, but that is a whole other story.   Unfortunately, the newly minted grads have had a hell of a time with the job market and can not pay off their substantial loans which bought their diplomas.  It doesn’t matter – the people who work for these organizations made a pretty penny by commercializing on cheap education, mass produced.

In the middle of all of this craziness and change one other phenomenon was being born. The trenchant  Luddites were wondering what to do with all the accumulated stuff from years past learning, businesses sending manufacturing abroad but leaving behind all matter of potential educational junk, recyclables, left overs, mis-appropriations and so forth.  The big not for profits which come to mind are Materials for The Arts in NYC, which saved my life during grad school, East Bay Center for Creative ReUse which saves my life now,  and RAFT (Resource Area for Teachers), which started out as the thinking teachers secret ‘almost’ back room to the Exploratorium, but better!

Materials for The Arts and East Bay Creative Reuse have been able to stay true to their mission. Sadly, RAFT began a slow and painful  descent of casting out its idealism to the wind for profits, as if it were actually a for profit Silicon Valley Corporation of some type.  RAFT is now a mini-version of Michael’s or Jo-Anne Crafts with a bit of Oriental Trading catalog thrown in.

Within all the turbulence of what education was and has become, teachers have been left with less and less in the way of professional development, materials and hands on, developmentally appropriate resources which are affordable.  The teachers were never the sell outs – no one can actually afford to pay a teacher what they are worth in America. What is sad is that teachers and students are punished.

Each time a great idea attempts to go to the ‘profitable’ side of things, beyond a reasonable draw in salary for the executive who founded the organization, it becomes an epic fail  which  takes years to undo.  For profit charter schools have proven to be no better than not-for profit and both have never demonstrated themselves to be any better than regular public schools in general.   For profit colleges have become even more notorious paper mills than what the ivy league has supposedly done over the years (ex: George W. Bush) AND students are not qualified to obtain an adequate job to pay off the extremely high interest rate loan.  The last thing teachers need is another ‘retailer’ in which to buy cheap supplies.

What teachers need is a community of educators. Teachers require the time to learn with and from other professionals.  Teachers need to be able to use meaningful resources with little to no cost (usually called donations) so they can continue to teach,  SO STUDENTS LEARN.

When not for profits and for profit businesses which were once committed to education, sell out, everyone loses.  The profits don’t trickle down, the losses to community do.

And, Aspire Public Education follows http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/after-lawsuit-officials-call-new-statewide-charter-rules-8660

On Monday, February 27, the Aspire Board of Directors approved our expansion to Memphis in school year 2013-2014, contingent on charter approval. We expect to receive approval in June.

Memphis represents a unique opportunity to change the odds for underserved children. There’s deep need. Of the 105,000 students currently served by Memphis City Schools, 85% receive free and reduced lunch. Of the state’s 5% lowest-performing schools, 80% are located in Memphis. Local leaders have already proven themselves strong partners who are willing to do what it takes to ensure we succeed. Local funding – both public and private – supports long-term financial stability. State and local policies are, for the most part, charter friendly; where they aren’t, we’re working with local leaders to change them. Finally, Memphis’s position in the national education reform spotlight will strengthen our voice in the conversation about how to make College for Certain a reality for all children. Today, Memphis is a hot spot for reform. It presents an opportunity for us to partner with many others to create a national example of what is possible when adults across work together on behalf of kids. Together, these factors make Memphis a place where we can contribute to transformative school system change.

To get expansion right, we will grow to only one new city in the short term. This means that other cities that were in consideration – most recently, Nashville and New Orleans – are no longer “in the running” for 2013-2014. Both cities are eager to have Aspire serving their kids, and we’ll continue to explore these exciting partnership opportunities down the road.

As some Home Office teammates begin spending more time on expansion, we will work hard to ensure that Memphis does not distract the organization from continuing to provide high-quality support to our current schools in California.  Our California team is the foundation of our model and  we know strong California schools will be the backbone of any success we achieve at a national level.

We’ve started reaching out to folks who expressed an interest in relocating to Memphis for the 2013-2014 school year.  If you’re interested in potentially relocating, but didn’t take the survey, please reach out to your area superintendent. We know you likely have many questions about relocation, compensation, benefits, and the specific role you’d play. We’re working fast and hard to get you those answers, and we’ll keep the information flowing as it becomes available.

Finally, note that we’re preparing for a public announcement in late March or early April, when we submit our charter applications. In the meantime, we’ve prepared a few talking points (below) for questions that may came up from outside parties.

Growth to Memphis represents an exciting first step in a national expansion that will benefit students who most need high-quality schools. As always, Senior Leadership Team doors remain open. We look forward to hearing from you with any thoughts you have about this next step in our journey towards College for Certain for all low-income children.

Key Messages About Aspire Expansion

Why is Aspire expanding outside of CA? Aspire’s mission calls us to deliver College for Certain to underserved children, while partnering with  local school systems to spark transformative change. These goals have become increasingly difficult in California due to the state budget crisis. Though growth here is not currently possible, our drive to serve the millions of low-income students trapped in failing schools remains as strong as ever.  Therefore, we are looking to new states with high levels of need where the conditions are right for us to extend our impact and drive change.

Why is Aspire expanding to Memphis? Aspire selected Memphis because of its high level of need, its favorable political climate, its existing momentum for reform, its emerging role in the national education dialogue, and the long term stability of all of these elements over time. Memphis also offers strong support from local leaders who are committed to our success there.

Will Aspire expand to other places? Not in the short-term. Though other cities have expressed high levels of demand for Aspire, we will only open in one new city in school year 2013-2014. We will continue to explore partnerships with other cities down the road. We also remain committed to sharing our best practices with other school systems, no matter where they are located.

Is Aspire leaving California? No, Aspire is not leaving California. We remain committed to our 34 California schools and 12,000 California students. We will add 1,500 more students as our current schools grow to scale. We were founded in California, and our roots are deep here. We know that success in any other state depends on the ongoing strength of our current schools, the backbone of our model.

Updated 9 April 2012:


A Mid-Term Parental Assessment


While this blog is addressing the article noted above, the reality is something like this needs to be done within the first two weeks of school and again at the mid-term assessment for students.  We are not, as a state or nation throwing everything we have at the educational dilemma in this country. Until parents are completely on board and accountable, we will continue to obtain, at best, mediocre outcomes as that is what lack of parental involvement produces.

The DATA would really be an eye opener for parents, teachers and students. Imagine if you could actually  be conversing with parents that were involved and in some way accountable……..not sure what accountability would look like other  then good student grades,  however, something like tax credits for B and above grades should not be out of the question (wink, wink, nudge, nudge Governor Brown, President Obama, Congress, etc.)  It is also possible that any parent collecting unemployment, food stamps, etc. be required to fill this type of questionnaire out monthly or every two months to demonstrate they are doing more than being at home.

In my very perfect world, mid-term assessment has to involve parents. The parents could use a #2 pencil, an app on a smart phone or an e-mail. The parent could do their assessment at school or have it completed by a particular date much like taxes.   While some questions may appear cynical or a form of entrapment, the reality is all parents should be able to answer each and every question on this assessment.  A parent who can not answer clearly has some room for improvement and this can be addressed in question 19.  This is not an exclusive list, it is a starting point. I believe that 25 questions would not be unreasonable.  I can not wait to see which school district and what Silicon Valley company will take this challenge on.

The assessment for parents would look like this:

(1) What is your library card number? Please write it down.

(2) What was the last book you read? Please write a two paragraph summary.

(3) What is your child’s library card number? Please write it down.

(4) Please write the date of the last time you went to the library with your child.

(5) What is the last book your child read? Please write the title and a brief two paragraph ummary.

(6) What is your favorite TV show?

(7) What is the last movie you watched?

(8) How much time (hours and minutes) does your child spend each day  (a) doing homework    and    (b) studying

(9) How much time (hours and minutes) does your child spend on  (a) the computer (non-academic) (b) TV

(10) What subject does your child have the best grade in?

(11) what subject does your child have a weak grade in?

(12) What was the approximate date of last parent/teacher conference?

(13) When was the last time you reviewed your childs work (homework, quizzes and tests) for completeness and grade achievement?

(14) When was the last time you had contact with your child’s school?

(15) What is the name of your child’s teacher (K-6) or home room and last class teacher?

(16) Describe the cover of your child’s agenda book.

(17) When was the last time you signed your child’s agenda book?

(18) Make a list of three things you will do this semester to help your child improve at school:

Be prepared to do a self assessment regarding your parent goals below for any class in which your child receives a grade of C or less.

(a)  I will __________________________ with my child so that they will _________________ in  (subject).

(b) I will __________________________ with my child so that they will _________________ in  (subject).

(c) I will __________________________ with my child so that they will _________________ in  (subject).

(19) Please list any information/resources we can provide to you to help you assist your child in outstanding academic achievement.

(20) Attached please find a calendar for the rest of the school year including PTA meetings, school board meetings and other major events which have effects on your child’s educational success.

Parents Taking on the RESPONSIBILITY of Parenting


While it should be illegal (it is at least immoral) for people to have children (adopt, give birth to, etc.)  and abdicate the education of said child to some one else, the next best thing is to set the expectation high and wide that parents (people who have children) take RESPONSIBILITY and parent.  It has been far too long in coming that our communities demand parent action.  This does not mean helicoptering as that is ‘overparenting’ and does nothing to set boundaries for learning from failures and successes.

It would have never occurred to me a few decades ago that parents needed to be asked and reminded to go to parent conferences, follow through on the progress of their child or actually be told that no one ever died from not watching TV and yet these were all things I had to do my first years of teaching. I was dumbfounded.  How is it my own parents, who both  (one more than 40 miles from home) worked by time I was in middle and high school, figured this out? How is it my parents gave up many a night out or activity to be sure myself and my sister  had library night, were involved in Girl Scouts and all manner of other activities in the community, went to some  free program for kids at the museum, at the local college over the weekend,  volunteered for PTA regularly, checked up on homework being done (we did not even have planners in those dark ages) and followed through on anything lower than a C grade?  Anything less than a C meant two things (1) figure out what you needed help with understanding (2) locate the people/resources (teacher, tutor, classmates parent, book, etc.) to turn the problem around. In retrospect, my parents were nothing short of amazing and driven – they had a desire that their children would do well in the world and lead lives of meaning and purpose.  My parents did not dump tons of money into the situation as we were not wealthy. My parents dumped TIME into the situation.

When I began teaching, PTA did not help the teacher round-up parents and wrangle with the idea of how to follow through on children, although I sure wish the organization had. This would have been the largest difference in the lives of so many children. I took on the burden many times by trying to re-think, re-plan, re-teach, tutor and so forth the students who were lagging behind.  It was never possible to do that much work for 15-20 of my 35 students in lower grades or 75-90 students in upper grades, do my job and have a life – but I tried.

Thankfully amid  all the ‘change’ being made in education, parents have been brought in to the light.  I hope this is the deal changer. It will be many years before we know for certain as a country, however, the research has always shown great parenting conquers much more than a teacher can teach in a school year.

If you are just becoming a teacher – make sure your school puts parents into action. If you already teach, find out what needs to happen to get parents activated at your school.  If you are a student – REMIND YOUR PARENTS TO SUPPORT YOUR BEST EFFORTS.  For all the parents out there thinking this is ‘impossible’ – unplug your TV for six months. None of you will die and your child will be far better for it.

Charter Schools vs. SPED – seems like same accountability as Wall St.

This blog is dedicated to Tres Whitlock in Florida. Due to confidentiality issues, I could only use his name if he and his family chose to come forward with using it.  Thank you Tres for going public!

Sometimes even when you watch a magic trick 100 times, you don’t catch the nuance of what is going on and that is what makes magic cool, fun and exciting. Clearly most of us would rather watch Criss Angel, Cirque Du Soleil, etc. than attend a meeting as our brains enjoy this brief time away from reality.  When the artifice of ‘magic’ is used to balance the books, it is still time away from reality. The difference is what happens on Wall St. and in schools should not be ‘magical’ and should not require hundreds of observations to understand. REIT’s, reverse whatevers, funky non-descript mutual funds,  Ponzi Schemes and so forth should not be allowed and yet Wall St. persists in just finding new and different ways to develop mysterious/magical money-making behavior. Alas, so do charter schools.  The magic is in just making something tricky enough to over-ride logic in the brain.  On Wall St. people merely lose money – in charter schools, children lose an education. There is a fair degree of difference.

This morning on NPR I listened to and then read about a  bit of ‘magic’ in  some Mimi-Dade, Florida charter schools and then decided to match up my own past experiences.  I have complained about the absence of special ed services at charter schools since I taught at one and the ‘magical’ absence of services did not appeal to me (my undergrad is speech pathology).  When I addressed the discrepancy (sorry, confidentiality rules do not allow me to use the child’s name), my principal was upset but tried to explain it as a kink that would later get fixed and for now, just focus on test scores. You catch the drift of the experience.

I looked up the NPR piece first and then decided to just do a random search to see if the topic was being covered in the news beyond NPR. NPR is an arbiter of high quality journalism so I always look to support the research and appeal to as many people as possible.

NPR had some interesting information based on some interesting people who had been interviewed.


The Florida Department of Education, citing privacy concerns, declined to provide statewide data of students with severe disabilities. But the agency said their analysis shows 86 percent of charter schools statewide had no students with severe disabilities.

It’s a trend repeated in California, Louisiana, New York and Texas, according to researchers from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Harvard University researcher Thomas Hehir calls it a “pattern of exclusion” among charter schools nationally. Hehir was the top special education official during the Clinton administration and played a leading role in rewriting the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

He says it comes down to money.

“That is unfortunately what we find in altogether too many places,” Hehir said. “I think that there is a disincentive to enroll these kids because they cost more money to educate.”

The Miami Herald had more and different details:


My look at Edjoin.org gave another view. I was looking to see if all the SPED services necessary were being provided to students at charter schools in my area. I know that SPED services are lacking in all the regular public schools, however, the regular public schools educate everyone.   It would seem some one should be monitoring the charter schools in my area and declining payment as was done in Miami-Dade yet the lobbying group named Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools does not believe money should be denied for non-compliance.  This is called the joy of magical thinking without repercussions.

Without these monthly payments, the charter schools will likely struggle to  keep the doors open, said Lynn Norman Teck, a spokeswoman for the Florida  Consortium of Public Charter Schools, a lobbying group and membership  association. She said some Florida charter schools have had compliance issues in  the past, but continued receiving their monthly checks.

“The consortium wants its member schools to do things right,” she said. “But  we don’t feel that funds should be withheld.”

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/10/25/2471822/two-miami-dade-charter-schools.html#ixzz1gXOP6yAk

http://www.edjoin.org/searchResults.aspx?countyID=1&districtID=2753  14 December 2011  10:25 AM viewing

SPED open positions with Aspire Public Schools in bay area of N. Ca:

12/7/2011 full-time SPED teacher mild/moderate,  full-time speech pathologist, part-time SPED teacher mild/moderate, 12/6/2011 SPED instructional assistant, 8/2/2011  counseling intern

http://www.edjoin.org/searchResults.aspx?countyID=1&districtID=2802  14 December 2011  10:25 AM viewing

SPED position with KIPP in bay area of N. Ca:

12/6/2011 director of SPED

http://www.edjoin.org/searchResults.aspx?countyID=1&districtID=3059  14 December 2011  10:25 AM viewing

SPED position with Leadership Public Schools in bay area of N. Ca:

10/27/2011 RSP teacher

In Tres’ case, he needs supervision to attend to bodily functions and is cognitively able to perform and function.  He may seem to be on the outer ‘extreme’ of SPED and yet the reality is that charter schools have a special loophole to deny any SPED kid an education (quotes are from NPR):

But there’s a loophole. Where special education students attend school is determined by their Individual Education Plan (IEP). That plan is developed by the student, parents, school officials and therapists.

The IEP team won’t send that student to a charter school that isn’t set up to serve disabled students.

School districts design a systemic plan to educate students with disabilities. Charter schools do not. Their solution is often to refer students back to the traditional public schools — as happened to Tres Whitlock.

If parents choose to decline the IEP, a child can and often does go to a charter school because charter schools have a habit of marketing their magical miracles.  In my experience, SPED students had ‘modified’ IEP’s…..which is kind of like a modified REIT on Wall St.

No, education for ‘all’ in charter schools is not equal nor fair but it is magical (thinking).  When the data is evaluated on an even playing field, even the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is able to observe the disparity.

NB: Charter schools are public, not for profit (unless noted as for profit) corporations. They must abide by all local, state and federal education laws and they receive ADA (our tax dollars) to run. Charter schools may do fund-raising and write grants, however this does not make them a magnet school or preclude them to be selective in the students which attend.  Since charter schools do not educate ‘all types’ of children, they are not actually public schools. Charter schools complain as they must rely on district resources so they are not able to comply due to being a small school, etc……if they can not measure up to being a public school and serve all students, they should not be called a public school, no matter how they market themselves.

Update on 2 April 2012:   http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/04/02/MNSB1NTO21.DTL&tsp=1   please read to end to see details regarding SPED students.