Republican attack on public schools

Betsy DeVos and the dumbing-down of US education policy

Striving for mediocrity:

Questioned minutes later, DeVos confesses she may have “confused” the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), leading Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan to worry aloud that the presumed chief of the United States’ massive public education structure is “unfamiliar” with one of its most basic protections.

It’s scenes like these that seem to be most vexing to public education advocates like June Atkinson, North Carolina’s former superintendent of public instruction, as DeVos’ confirmation looms. Atkinson was recently ousted from her longtime post by a Republican challenger who, much like DeVos, comes to the top position with relatively little experience in public school policymaking. “It was painful to watch,” says Atkinson of this month’s DeVos hearings.

That's an understatement. After such a poor (and often confusing) performance, it's hard to imagine any Senator actually voting for her. But she'll probably make it, and she will probably end up in court before 2018 arrives, because she is clearly not qualified for the position:

And a child will lead them

Mark Johnson has his first day at school board:

He had successes and failures, he said, but the story that sticks with him is one about a 16-year-old student he taught in his second year. By that time, Johnson had his class management skills down, he explained, so the students would file into the classroom quietly, collect their assignments and books, and start reading.

One particular student — the aforementioned 16-year-old — was more fond of skipping class and cutting up. But one day, when the student walked in and saw all the other kids behaving properly, he asked Johnson for his textbook and assignment. Johnson said he was thrilled. It was a dream moment for a teacher — getting through to a hard-to-reach student. But Johnson’s enthusiasm was smashed moments later when the student called him over after starting the assignment. “I still remember to this day,” Johnson said. “He told me, ‘Mr Johnson, I can’t read the words in this book.’”

I've mentioned this before, but I'm going to do it again: The part of this story that should stand out to everybody reading it, is the fact these kids only had access to their textbook for the 55 minutes they were in class. They should have it with them in study hall, when they go home in the afternoon, right before they go to bed, when they get up in the morning, while they're riding the bus (or car) to school, etc. But when your budget is so tight you've got five or six classes of children sharing the same books, you've got to "ration" their usage. Like a fricking basketball during P.E. That should have been the moral to Mark Johnson's story every time he told it, but it sounds like it didn't even register on him.

Blatant hypocrisy emerges in charter school scandal

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Oversight? We don't need no stinking oversight:

But when it comes to the Republicans’ pet education issues – increasing the number of charter schools and expanding the use of vouchers for private schools – the accountability demands ease. The lack of oversight has now shown up in a Durham charter K-12 school that awarded 53 diplomas in the last two years to students who lacked the credits necessary to graduate. That’s nearly a third of the school’s graduates since 2014 and the problem could go back further.

I find it extremely hard to believe administrators at this school couldn't keep up with a simple credit count. It's not quantum mechanics, for God's sake. Which means, there was an intentional effort to graduate unqualified students, and an apparently widespread problem in even providing enough classroom instruction to meet the criteria. What other shortcuts did they take? We likely won't find out, because Republicans seem intent on ignoring the problem:

More school privatization on the menu with Mark Johnson

I'm already missing June Atkinson:

Johnson, an attorney who taught public school with the Teach for America program before entering law school, deserves credit for running an energetic campaign, and he made his fast-paced pitch to voters in every corner of the state. One priority: reducing testing, which Johnson believes is taking too much energy from teachers. Another: more help for local districts from DPI. And another: support for charter school expansion and a voucher program wherein public money goes to parents (for now, only to lower-income parents) who want to send their children to private school.

Standard, boiler-plate Conservative stuff. Testing has gotten out of control, but the charter/voucher mantra is getting tiresome. A lot more failures than successes, and the tenacity in which these people pursue such a dubious program screams a hidden agenda. Whether that is greed for profit or the desire to undermine government-controlled education, it really doesn't matter. Education results are a secondary consideration, which means these programs will continue to fail, pissing away public monies in the process.

School privatization "boosts" real estate market

May not be good for (all) the kids, but home values apparently soar:

Once we realize that assigning children to schools results in concentrating poverty, we can begin to imagine the social benefits of systems that avoid assignments.

Research recently published in the Journal of Housing Research shows homes are worth more in the places that use this scholarship system instead of the more rigid assignment system. Homes are worth significantly more in tuitioning districts than in districts with weak assigned schools. The more school options that were available, the larger the price premium. Studies on similar systems in Paris, France, and San Antonio, Texas, find similar results.

I have developed a (maybe bad) habit of scrolling to the bottom of an Op-Ed to get an idea of who a writer is, and where that writer is coming from, before I digest the information being put forward. Usually it's pretty straightforward, but sometimes there's a weird confluence. In this case, it's an associate professor of finance and real estate talking about education. Like I said, weird. But this guy's approach to the subject is even weirder, talking about areas that don't even resemble North Carolina's school districts:

Dan Forest wields unprecedented influence over new ASDs

Expanding his twisted little empire:

A selection advisory committee appointed by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has been interviewing candidates and is expected to make a recommendation to the State Board of Education by next week. The state board will have the final say in who is hired.

Charter supporters throw temper tantrum over low approval numbers

And engage in a little name calling between tears:

Today, Alan Hawkes, a Greensboro charter leader who sits on the state’s Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB), is still hot. That’s because five schools tapped for opening by Hawkes’ board, which makes recommendations on charter applicants to the state board, were overwhelmingly voted down by the State Board of Education (SBE). Board members cited typos, weak applications and publicly questioned whether some schools’ academic plans were ready for prime time despite the CSAB’s support. Typically, state board members heed the counsel of the CSAB, but not this month.

“Don’t get me started about public charter school no-nothings (sic) on the NC State Board of Education,” Hawkes wrote in an email to Policy Watch this week. “The temerity and ignorance of those soulless SOB’s (sic) presuming to know better than the NC Charter School Advisory Board with its diversity of knowledge and experience in this area. If there is anyone who knows the good, the bad and the ugly about public school choice, it’s members of our NC CSAB.”

The plural form is "sons of bitches," so I'm thinking it should be "S'sOB"? Still doesn't look right...Anyway, if the people who are supposedly going to teach our children can neither write well nor proofread, maybe they should take up another hobby, like ATV riding without a helmet? Using a chainsaw to cut the wrong side of the limb they're sitting on? Something along those lines.

Charter pirates to be led by Dan Forest

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What could possibly go wrong?

Regardless of the warnings, the N.C. legislature mandated the State Board of Education to start the process that will seize five of the state’s lowest performing public schools and put their management under a newly-formed Achievement School District.

The Achievement Schools superintendent, who will be picked by a committee headed and selected by the lieutenant governor, will have a $400,000 start-up budget, significant authority and autonomy in choosing the five schools and designating the specific school operators – though the state board must ultimately approve the choices.

So, Lieutenant Dan gets to select the committee he will then lead, and they will select the Superintendent. Why even have a committee? If somebody disagrees with Forest, won't he be able to simply "select" their replacement? For all their talk about "government accountability," Republicans have a habit of doing the exact opposite.

When charter schools go horribly wrong

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They can leave your child struggling to catch up:

In spring 2014 with about a month left in the school year, StudentFirst was in debt by more than $600,000 and shut its doors, giving only a week’s notice. Rochelle scrambled to get her children into a public magnet school operated by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district.

A few weeks later at the new school, her eldest son, CJ, a third-grader, failed the end-of-year reading test—and Rochelle fully realized that StudentFirst’s shortcomings were not just financial, but academic as well. “It became clear that CJ had learned virtually nothing. He fell behind in all subject areas. He went to summer school after that to begin catching up.”

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