Posts Tagged ‘Teacher Freedom’

The Softer Side of “No Excuses” at KIPP Academy

October 25, 2013

There are many excellent charter schools in Texas, but KIPP Academy, being one of the oldest “No Excuses” charter schools, has had the most said about it, both positive and negative.  This Education Next article is an accurate look inside a KIPP Academy in New Orleans.

Enjoy!

The Suburban Education Gap

November 16, 2012

The U.S. economy could be $1 trillion a year stronger if Americans only performed at Canada’s level in math.

By ARTHUR LEVINE

Parents nationwide are familiar with the wide academic achievement gaps separating American students of different races, family incomes and ZIP Codes. But a second crucial achievement gap receives far less attention. It is the disparity between children in America’s top suburban schools and their peers in the highest-performing school systems elsewhere in the world.

Of the 70 countries tested by the widely used Program for International Student Assessment, the United States falls in the middle of the pack. This is the case even for relatively well-off American students: Of American 15-year-olds with at least one college-educated parent, only 42% are proficient in math, according to a Harvard University study of the PISA results. That is compared with 75% proficiency for all 15-year-olds in Shanghai and 50% for those in Canada.

Compared with big urban centers, America’s affluent suburbs have roughly four times as many students performing at the academic level of their international peers in math. But when American suburbs are compared with two of the top school systems in the world—in Finland and Singapore—very few, such as Evanston, Ill., and Scarsdale, N.Y., outperform the international competition. Most of the other major suburban areas underperform the international competition. That includes the likes of Grosse Point, Mich., Montgomery County, Md., and Greenwich, Conn. And most underperform substantially, according to the Global Report Card database of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

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David Gothard

The problem America faces, then, is that its urban school districts perform inadequately compared with their suburban counterparts, and its suburban districts generally perform inadequately compared with their international counterparts. The domestic achievement gap means that the floor for student performance in America is too low, and the international achievement gap signals that the same is true of the ceiling. America’s weakest school districts are failing their students and the nation, and so are many of America’s strongest.

The domestic gap means that too many poor, urban and rural youngsters of color lack the education necessary to obtain jobs that can support a family in an information economy in which low-end jobs are disappearing. This hurts the U.S. economically, exacerbates social divisions, and endangers our democratic society by leaving citizens without the requisite knowledge to participate effectively.

The international gap, meanwhile, hurts the ability of American children to obtain the best jobs in a global economy requiring higher levels of skills and knowledge. This economy prizes expertise in math, science, engineering, technology, language and critical thinking.

The children in America’s suburban schools are competing for these jobs not only against each other and their inner-city and rural neighbors, but against peers in Finland and Singapore, where students are better-prepared. The international achievement gap makes the U.S. less competitive and constitutes a threat to national strength and security. Stanford economist Eric Hanushek has estimated that America would add $1 trillion annually to its economy if it performed at Canada’s level in math.

So what do Americans do? We talk a great deal about the achievement gap. We write books and reports about it. We wring our hands at its existence. We adopt a revolving door of short-term reforms in response. But nearly 30 years after the alarming federal report “A Nation at Risk,” not one major urban district has been turned around. Many of our suburban school districts are losing ground. We have settled on a path of global mediocrity for students attending our most affluent schools and national marginality for those attending failing inner-city schools.

A Hollywood drama released in September, “Won’t Back Down,” offered an alternative. It told the story of two parents (one a teacher) determined to transform their children’s failing school in the face of opposition from administrators, teachers and unions. The protagonists faced apathy and intransigence at every turn.

Hollywood caricatures aside, the movie correctly conveyed that parents are the key. Parents need to say that they won’t stand for these intolerable achievement gaps. The first step is for parents to learn what quality education is and how it is achieved.

This isn’t a game for amateurs. Parents need to use every resource at their disposal—demanding changes in schools and in district offices; using existing tools such as “parent-trigger” laws and charter schools; organizing their communities; cultivating the media and staging newsworthy events; telling politicians and officeholders that their votes will go to candidates who support improvement; even going to the courts. If parents want change, they have the capacity to make it happen, but it isn’t easy.

At the same time, it is critical to recognize that school districts can’t perform miracles. They can’t overcome the tolls of poverty and poor housing, but they can close gaps. They can raise the floor and the ceiling of student academic achievement. Some schools in high-need districts and suburbs are already doing this. There is no excuse not to—and, if we hope to compete globally, there is no time to lose.

Mr. Levine, a former president of Columbia University’s Teachers College, is president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

A version of this article appeared November 15, 2012, on page A19 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The Suburban Education Gap

HB 3339 HAS BEEN FILED!!!

March 11, 2011
Be of good cheer! The “Parent Trigger” bill, HB 3339 has been filed.
Important highlights of the bill:
1. School must be graded “Unacceptable” (Failed) two consecutive years.  Currently, 188 Texas schools qualify.
2. There is only one choice, Charter Conversion, (no voucher option).
3. The parents can avoid stalemate by appealing to the Commissioner of Education, Robert Scott.  This position is appointed by Governor Rick Perry (Republican).
Filer is Rep. James White.  White is a freshman, African American, Republican, rural, representative from House District 12 in East Texas.  Largest town in the district is Lufkin, TX, 60 miles from the Louisiana border.
Hurray!  PTL!

Keep the Best Teachers, Not the Oldest Ones

January 31, 2011

The WSJ article, “Seniority Moment,” explains the union policy of firing teachers based on “last in, first out” versus “worst out.”   Highlights:

Many states and cities are facing teacher layoffs this year as they scramble to balance their budgets.

In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is seeking Governor Andrew Cuomo’s support to end this “last in, first out” state policy.

A 2010 study … found that seniority-based layoffs disproportionately hurt poor and minority students.

[A]n overhaul of how teachers are retained … requires action by the legislature in Albany, where the United Federation of Teachers has extraordinary influence.

[R]eform [minded] principals will find themselves stuck with careerists who are sticking around mainly for their pensions while Teach for America alumni get the boot.

But students will be harmed if school districts let the best teachers go so as not to offend union power brokers.

Join the National Education Reform Movement!

January 6, 2011

Michelle Rhee, former Chancellor of Washington DC Public Schools, has started a national education reform grassroots movement called StudentsFirst.org.

Please join her organization as well as the Texas subgroup called “Texas for Education Reform.”  That way we can stay in touch with what the group is doing in Texas and on the national level.

Also while you are at it, please “like” my FaceBook “fan page” named “Texans for Parental Choice in Education.”

Thank you in advance.  I’m so excited about the education reform policies that could become law during the Texas legislative session this spring!

Letters to the Editor about Rhee’s Departure

October 19, 2010

The WSJ has two letters to the editor printed in response to the editorial entitled “Education Reform Setback.”

The first is a conservative letter coming to the conclusion that the unions position is not about the kids or the teachers. “It’s all about the money, stupid.”

The second is a somewhat incoherent liberal letter. What does the following sentence mean? “Anyone who works for a salary realizes that such an approach could unfairly victimize himself…” If anyone victimizes himself, who is the oppressor? I’m not sure that Mr. Brenner knows what his “own best interest” is.

Michelle Rhee Talks About Her Resignation

October 19, 2010

“Waiting for Superman” Opens This Weekend

October 15, 2010

Don’t forget to see “Waiting for Superman”, a documentary about how unions suppress educational options for low-income children and the suffering that those families endure.

You can find which theaters are showing the movie and buy tickets at Fandango.com.

Sad News from DC where the Unions take out Michelle Rhee

October 14, 2010

WSJ laments the resignation of successful reformer, Michelle Rhee. Highlights:

Michelle Rhee described her decision yesterday to step down as Washington, D.C., schools chancellor after 3½ years as “heartbreaking”… That one of the nation’s most talented school reformers was forced out does not bode well for students.

[F]ew believed that [the new mayor-elect,] Mr. Gray[,] would retain Ms. Rhee’s services, especially since the teacher unions spent more than $1 million to elect Mr. Gray so that he would replace the chancellor.  The Washington Post reports that Ms. Rhee’s resignation “won immediate support from the Washington Teachers’ Union,”

Ms. Rhee’s tenure was marked by improved test scores and putting the interests of students first. She closed underperforming schools, fired bad instructors, supported school vouchers for low-income families and opened charter schools.

One reason education reform is so difficult is because unions believe their political influence and money will outlast even the bravest reformers in the end.

Journal Editorial Report Talks About Michelle Rhee, Mark Zuckerberg & “Superman”

October 11, 2010

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