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Who’s accountable for California’s public schools? Don’t ask, don’t tell.

Californian Dan Walters raises a good point about how the focus on holding charter schools accountable in his state have intensified recently even as the same fervor for accountability misses the entire K-12 education system.

Walters writes in the Orange County Register “[e]ducational accountability is attracting a lot of political attention — or perhaps lip service — these days in California.” He also touches on Governor Gavin Newsome’s signing of laws that make life harder for charters schools, using the fig leaf of “transparency” and “accountability” for schools union activists have tagged as nearly lawless, but he says this isn’t new.

Color me amazed by the Jedi trick public school supporters have used to push political leaders to call charter schools on the carpet, probably because it takes heat off of traditional school districts, but they fail to address the biggest problem facing their schools: less than half of California’s students are reading proficient, and even fewer are math proficient, and, California is home to the 14th worst public education system in the country.

Please look at these achievement gap rates (below) and tell me how it makes sense for one of the world’s biggest liberal economies?

If you read my blog long enough you’ll begin to predict what I’ll say next, so, stop me if you’ve heard this next part before.

Drill down a little into the most wealthy, most progressive enclave of California – that being San Francisco, the city where the streets are paved with avocado toast – and the picture is just weird.

The city’s small number of black students are doing worse academically than their peers in much poorer districts.


And, look at how these students are doing school-by-school (notice the performance in charters).

Excuse me, remind me how unionized school districts and the governor they elected were allowed to spend the past year trolling charter schools when the administration of their schools is an unnatural disaster?

Their deflection is marvelous example of how the organizers representing fallacious bureaucrats and their “workers” taking power from the sheeple.

Jerry Brown, Newsome’s predecessor, was more reform-friendly, but he too sidestepped efforts to hold K-12 schools accountable for tracking the success of students in the way public colleges and workforce development agencies had too. Walters says Brown injected new money into schools without adequate systems for tracking how it would be used, because he “trusted local school officials to do the right thing as he gave them extra money to improve outcomes for poor and English-learner students.”

That has made California something of an outlier, one that should change. Walters points us to research coming from Stanford supporting the case for California to join other states with better records on accountability.

Morgan Polikoff,  an associate professor of education policy at USC’s Rossier School of Education, advocates the individual student growth model in a recent article published by Policy Analysis for California Education, a research consortium sponsored by the state’s major universities.

Polikoff points out that California is one of just two states that lack such an accountability model now, and is critical of the state’s “dashboard” as “insufficient for the task of contributing to continuous improvement.”

“Forty-eight states have already done so; there is no reason for California to hang back with Kansas while other states use growth data to improve their schools,” Polikoff writes.

So will California get serious about holding public schools accountable for how well students learn?

If we’re willing to do so for for-profit schools, charter schools and community colleges, there’s no reason traditional K-12 schools should escape such scrutiny.

The fact is, the new insurgency that has been plotted and executed by groups representing public workers more than the public has little interest in the types of accountability or transparency they call for from charters. As an example, look to Jackie Goldberg, a union-first firebrand who was elected to the LAUSD school board and immediate set about sabotaging the implementation of the district’s “School Performance Framework,” a data system intended to help parents evaluate how schools are doing. It was an attempt to be transparent about school information and inform the public of schools that do well or others that struggle.

Goldberg fears giving parents this information might “shame, penalize, or stigmatize schools, education professionals, students, and entire communities,” and “promote unhealthy competition between schools.”

So, in her view, the public is not entitled to the district’s public information, and it’s better for the establishment (and its staff) if information is withheld from parents and community members.

That position mimics the fight in Oakland and elsewhere against common enrollment systems that allow parents to enroll in district or charter schools through one application. Foes of those systems want enrollment for parents to be more time consuming and difficult if they plan to make an unpopular school selection for their family.

Remember that next time a neo-socialist gives you a speech about how private systems aren’t as democratic or transparent as public ones. The truth is, public systems are protected by people who see it in their best interest to keep you ignorant and without alternatives to what they offer.

If there is any justice in the world the unions, the governor and state superintendent they supported during elections (I know, “there was no quid pro quo!”) and all of the “grassroots” nonprofits that work with them to attack the 10% of students in charters, will face the music themselves for 90% in their own schools (the ones currently serving the lion share of low-performing marginalized students).

Pursuing the power of self-sovereignty and personalized learning to create secure citizens and abundant communities. #TheOppositeOfSchool #AllPowerToThePupil

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A Chicago mom on how police got into public schools

Chicago’s mayor – Lori Lightfoot – isn’t interested in ending its $33 million contract to keep police officers in schools. Plainly put, she says, “Yeah, we’re not going to [remove officers]….we need security in our schools.”

Community activists say counseling programs reduce violence while the presence of officers has not.

Lightfoot’s resistance to calls for removing cops is out of step with other school districts looking for social justice credibility they’ve lacked for too long.

For instance, last week, the Minneapolis School Board continued their inability to focus on how to teach children to read, write or compute, opting instead on a vote to remove School Resource Officers from their schools.

I won’t make light of the decision because I generally support de-policifying schools, neighborhoods, and communities. Yet, I won’t fail to call out MPS’ long record of impulsively reacting like a puppy chasing an erratic laser pointer and then poorly implementing plans afterward.

Taking cops out of schools (especially Minneapolis’ racist ass suburban-living officers who drive in every day to over-police city citizens) is fine with me. It isn’t an academic intervention, which makes it attractive for people that don’t want to face their teaching problems, but I assure you MPS has no credible plan for what happens once their schools are police-free.

Following Minneapolis’s lead, other districts are considering removing officers from schools as penance for ignoring institutional racism for too long.

DenverOaklandPrince George’s County, and Portland are also considering “defunding” resource officers in schools.

But, Chicago isn’t joining yet.

Cassandra Kaczocha, a Chicago parent, has written a fascinating history of how police officers made it into the public schools in the first place.

She writes:

Although there were sporadic instances of Chicago police involvement with Chicago Public Schools, the first formal relationship between CPS and the Chicago Police Department began in 1966, when off-duty cops began being hired as high school security guards. This decision came in the wake of a 1963 school boycott protesting segregated schools, and amid the continuing civil rights conflicts happening in Chicago at the time.

I think it’s important to understand in the wake of year’s of civil unrest in cities across the nation, President Lyndon B. Johnson commissioned a group of moderate white dudes, led by a Senator from my home state of Illinois, to investigate the causes of the unrest and recommend remediation strategies.  This group, the Kerner Commission, provided a nearly 800 page report. The report recommended MASSIVE investment in creating social equity. The report recommended reparative justice. 

But President Lyndon B. Johnson felt like he’d already done enough to appease Black folks by passing the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965. So, instead of following the commission’s recommendations, LBJ made massive investments in policing and prisons. The War on Crime and its investments in policing also greatly increased policing in schools. 

LBJ, with the help of supposedly “small government conservatives,” created a whole new government body to transfer federal tax dollars into local policing. Including, creating funding specifically for putting police into urban schools. The police were not put into schools to keep Black and Brown kids safe. They were added as a control measure to keep Brown and Black kids from demonstrating against the social conditions that harm them. While this particular government body was phased out in the 1980s, the false idea that Black and Brown children need additional social controls, including policing, has persisted.

From Nixon’s launch of the War on Drugs to Reagan’s reinvestment in it, to the  “superpredator” and “zero tolerance” rhetoric of the 1990s and early 2000s, the notion that police are required to keep our schools “under control” has continued to hold sway. It is only in the last decade that a sustained effort to change the narrative and change policy has emerged. You can read all about this here

Read the whole story at Chicago Unheard.

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School Choice

Distance learning spare students chaotic classrooms

Veronique Mintz is a 13-year-old student in New York who isn’t having troubles with distance learning that we hear so much about in the media. She isn’t missing the social interactions of in-person schooling because, as she tells it, those interactions were rife with distractions that impeded her ability to learn.

Over three years of middle school Veronica’s classes were disrupted daily by students “Talking out of turn…Destroying classroom materials…Disrespecting teachers…Blurting out answers during tests…pushing, kicking, hitting one another and even rolling on the ground.”

Things are different now that she’s learning at home. The upside of school closures is that she has a quiet, safe, and productive place to learn at her own pace without a demand for student collaboration learning activities that hold the most dedicated students hostage to the varying motivation levels of fellow students.

Writing for the New York Times opinion page, she says:

I have been doing distance learning since March 23 and find that I am learning more, and with greater ease, than when I attended regular classes. I can work at my own pace without being interrupted by disruptive students and teachers who seem unable to manage them.

Students unable or unwilling to control themselves steal valuable class time, often preventing their classmates from being prepared for tests and assessments. I have taken tests that included entire topics we never mastered, either because we were not able to get through the lesson or we couldn’t sufficiently focus.

I do not envy a middle-school teacher’s job. It’s far from easy to oversee 26 teenagers. And in my three years of middle school, I’ve encountered only a few teachers who had strong command of their classrooms — enforcing consistent rules, treating students fairly and earning their respect.

I go to a school that puts a big emphasis on collaborative learning; approximately 80 percent of our work is done in teacher-assigned groups of three to five students. This forces students who want to complete their assignments into the position of having to discipline peers who won’t behave and coax reluctant group members into contributing.

Distance learning gives me more control of my studies. I can focus more time on subjects that require greater effort and study. I don’t have to sit through a teacher fielding questions that have already been answered. I can still collaborate with other students, but much more effectively. I am really enjoying FaceTiming friends who bring different perspectives and strengths to the work; we challenge one another and it’s a richer learning experience.

We spend so much time defending the rights of students that struggle with self-regulation, motivation, and focus that perhaps we forget the students who take school seriously and show up fully present to learn. Given the fact that classroom management practices aren’t likely to calm increasingly disinterested students distance learning is one way to address the needs of students like Veronica who deserve every opportunity to learn in a quiet, respectful, and knowledge-rich setting.

Remember, equity means every student gets what they need to thrive.

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SHAWNTA BARNES: What you need to know during COVID-19 if your child has an ILP, IEP, or 504

The COVID-19 school closures have been tough on both parents and teachers; however, we still must work together to ensure we can do the best for students at this time. The bottom line is school staff must communicate with parents, and if this is not happening, then parents must advocate for their children to ensure they are receiving the best education at this time.

Shawnta Barnes, an educator, administrator, librarian, gardener, and mother blogging from Indianapolis has timely advice for parents of students with special learning plans.

I’m an educator, but I’m also a parent of a child with a 504. There has been a lot of confusion lately from both teachers and parents about how services for students with IEPs, ILPs, and 504s will continue while schools are closed. An ILP (individual learning plan) outlines services for English language learners. An IEP (individual education plan) outlines services for special education students. A 504 plan, which has some overlap with an IEP, provides services to students with a physical disability or mental health diagnosis that could interfere with their education without students being part of special education. For example, a child could have a 504 because he or she uses a wheelchair or suffers from anxiety or depression.  On the days that your child’s school is in session implementing e-learning and not using waivers days granted by the governor, your child’s school must provide general services and specialized services for all students.

READ MORE: If Your Child Has an ILP, IEP, or 504, Here’s What You Need to Know During the COVID-19 School Closures — Indy K12

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