Monthly Archives: March 2011

Let’s Talk About Charter Schools

the History of charter schools

The charter school movement has roots in a number of other reform ideas, from alternative schools, to site-based management, magnet schools, public school choice, privatization, and community-parental empowerment. The term “charter” may have originated in the 1970s when New England educator Ray Budde suggested that small groups of teachers be given contracts or “charters” by their local school boards to explore new approaches. Albert Shanker, former president of the AFT, then publicized the idea, suggesting that local boards could charter an entire school with union and teacher approval. In the late 1980s Philadelphia started a number of schools-within-schools and called them “charters.” Some of them were schools of choice. The idea was further refined in Minnesota where charter schools were developed according to three basic values: opportunity, choice, and responsibility for results.

In 1991 Minnesota passed the first charter school law, with California following suit in 1992. By 1995, 19 states had signed laws allowing for the creation of charter schools, and by 2003 that number increased to 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Charter schools are one of the fastest growing innovations in education policy, enjoying broad bipartisan support from governors, state legislators, and past and present secretaries of education. In his 1997 State of the Union Address, former President Clinton called for the creation of 3,000 charter schools by the year 2002. In 2002, President Bush called for $200 million to support charter schools. His proposed budget called for another $100 million for a new Credit Enhancement for Charter Schools Facilities Program. Since 1994, the U.S. Department of Education has provided grants to support states’ charter school efforts, starting with $6 million in fiscal year 1995.

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Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Education News


We Are What We Eat

Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times
First graders at the William D. Kelley School in Philadelphia learn about nutrition in gym class.
Published: March 27, 2011

PHILADELPHIA — Tatyana Gray bolted from her house and headed toward her elementary school. But when she reached the corner store where she usually gets her morning snack of chips or a sweet drink, she encountered a protective phalanx of parents with bright-colored safety vests and walkie-talkies.

The scourge the parents were combating was neither the drugs nor the violence that plagues this North Philadelphia neighborhood. It was bad eating habits.

“Candy!” said one of the parents, McKinley Harris, peering into a small bag one child carried out of the store. “That’s not food.”

The parents standing guard outside the Oxford Food Shop are foot soldiers in a national battle over the diets of children that has taken on new fervor. With 20 percent of the nation’s children obese, the United States Department of Agriculture has proposed new standards for federally subsidized school meals that call for more balanced meals and, for the first time, a limit on calories. The current standard specifies only a minimum calorie count, which some schools meet by adding sweet foods.

Earlier this year, when Michelle Obama, as part of her campaign against childhood obesity, announced that Wal-Mart would reduce salt and sugar in its packaged foods, she said, “We’re beginning to see the ripple effects on the choices folks are making about how they feed their kids.”

But this effort is up against an array of powerful forces, from economics to biology, all of which are playing out in Philadelphia, where the obesity rate is among the nation’s highest. At the intersection of North 28th and West Oxford Streets, the Oxford Food Shop and the William D. Kelley School are in a tug of war over the cravings of kids.

Amelia Brown, the principal of the kindergarten through eighth grade school, said that deplorable diets caused headaches and stomachaches that undermine academic achievement, and that older students showed a steady progression of flab. So inside the school, the nutrition bug is rampant.

The gym teacher, Beverly Griffin, teaches healthy eating using a toy model of the federal food pyramid and rewritten children’s songs. “And on his farm he had some carrots,” Tatyana, a first grader, belted out one recent morning, skipping around the gym with her classmates.

Like schools throughout the nation, Kelley has expelled soda and sweet snacks. Instead of high-calorie fruit juices, the school nurse, Wendy Fine, said, “I push water.”

The Agriculture Department wants to change the content of federally subsidized school meals — 33 million lunches and 9 million breakfasts a day — by the fall of 2012. Beyond the calorie cap, the new standards would emphasize whole grains, vegetables and fruits and set tighter limits on sodium and fats.

“This will mean a huge shift in school meals,” said Margo G. Wootan, the director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group.

Fernando Gallard, a spokesman for the Philadelphia School District, said schools were meeting the new federal meal proposals by using more dark green and orange vegetables, as well as fruits, whole grains and legumes.

The food industry is defending products by focusing on their mineral and vitamin content. The National Potato Council, for example, is warning against cutting starch, saying children need potatoes’ potassium and fiber.

Some companies are adjusting their recipes, although hardly drastically. After Philadelphia schools stopped buying the sugary products of the local bakery icon Tastykake, the company created a 190-calorie muffin, reducing sugar enough to move it below flour on the list of ingredients. The new formulation, which uses whole grains, got Tastykake muffins back on the school breakfast menu and classified as bread. “It is sweet,” said Autumn R. Bayles, a company senior vice president. “Sugar is just not the first ingredient.”

To match the efforts inside the school, one of Ms. Brown’s first acts as principal last August was to ask owners of nearby corner stores to stop selling to students in the morning.

There was a reason for this. While research suggests that as little as an extra 200 calories a day can make an adult overweight, a recent study led by Gary D. Foster, the director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University, found that children were getting 360 calories a day from chips, candy and sugary drinks — all for an average of $1.06.

Gladys Tejada, who owns the Oxford shop, said, “It’s a good thing, what they’re trying to do, but I can’t control who comes in.”

Nor can she control what they buy. “They like it sweet,” she said. “They like it cheap.”

Since 2001, a Philadelphia organization called Food Trust has worked to get corner stores to offer healthier foods, including fresh fruit, vegetables and water, as well as products with reduced sugar, salt and fat. But just 507 of the city’s estimated 2,500 corner stores have signed on.

Continue reading…

CaseClosed2: A balanced diet is important if our children are to be able to learn in school and life. They cannot learn if their bodies don’t have the proper nutrients. Too much sugar and food loaded wth chemicals are not good for the body or brain which could explain behavorial problems of disruptive kids in schools who eat such diets. The more natural the diet, the better.

Read this article which explans foods and disruptive behaviors in children…

Deadly Diet

The Link Between Bad Food and Bad Behavior at All Ages

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Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Education News


Charter School Absenteeism A Concern

As Student Absenteeism Rises, a Charter School Fights Back

The corridors were calm and the classrooms humming at the Chicago Talent Development Charter High School, but Kirby Callam, the school’s chief executive, was focused on one missing honor student. On a sunny March morning, that 15-year-old was chalking up yet another unexcused absence and falling further behind in his accelerated coursework.

As Mr. Callam looked at his laptop, which is loaded with software designed to track the attendance of each of the high school’s 200 students, he said the student had only an 11 percent attendance rate during the last two weeks. Repeated phone calls to his home had not helped.

“He’s a very smart kid, on the honor track, and we’re not going to let go,” Mr. Callam said.

The missing student is part of a worrisome trend. During the 2009-10 school year, Talent Development Charter’s first year, attendance was about 90 percent. This year, it is 85 percent despite a number of anti-absenteeism initiatives — including sophisticated attendance-tracking software, encouragement from a team of young AmeriCorps members, pizza parties and twice-weekly shout-outs called power greetings that welcome students as they walk into the school.

Talent Development Charter’s attendance program was developed with help from Johns Hopkins University’s nationally renowned Diplomas Now initiative. While the school’s attendance rate dwarfs those of others in its hardscrabble West Side neighborhood — Marshall High School recorded a 53.5 percent attendance rate for 2010 — it is still losing ground. And Talent Development Charter’s mixed success raises questions about how other Chicago schools with fewer resources can attack one of the system’s most serious problems.

At schools in the city and across the United States, chronic absenteeism is affecting performance, particularly among children from poor families. Absenteeism costs money for school districts, because they receive no state payments for students who are not at school. It also contributes to cycles of failure in neighborhoods already facing high rates of crime and poverty.

The connections between poverty, absenteeism and academic failure are evident, said Robert Balfanz, a research scientist at the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. A 2006 study of high schools in high poverty neighborhoods with the lowest graduation rates found that roughly two-thirds of the students missed a month or more during the nine-month school year. A 2007 study of middle-school students in Philadelphia found that sixth graders who attended class just 80 percent of the time had only a one-in-five chance of graduating from high school.

In Chicago, the public schools system has attendance coordinators in 27 area offices and a truancy hot line, but there is no comprehensive, systemwide approach focused on high-school absenteeism. Instead, the school district is testing a program that relies on a trio of programs: one to reduce in-school violence, one to engender a calmer atmosphere in classrooms and hallways, and a third to enable safe passage from home to school. The effort to make schools feel safer has helped improve attendance even though that is not the primary aim, said Monique Bond, a spokeswoman for the schools.

In the six high schools testing the programs, attendance rose from 70 percent during a five-month period in 2009-10, to 78 percent for the same months this school year. Systemwide attendance at all public schools excluding charters during the period dropped from 88 percent to 86 percent, Ms. Bond said.

“We’ve matched kids up with these mentors who can wrap their arms around them and be there in their lives,” Ms. Bond said. “In days past, there was the good, old-fashioned truancy officer, and that may come back once again, but in a different format.”

Nonetheless, with the public schools in Chicago serving more than 400,000 students and a systemwide attendance rate of just 91.5 percent, officials find it difficult to account for the roughly 40,000 absent students on any given day. The numbers are so overwhelming that absenteeism experts suggest that Chicago and other big-city school systems should focus less on average daily attendance and more on helping chronically absent students.

“Average daily attendance rates mask chronic absenteeism,” said Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works, which promotes attendance-improvement programs nationwide.

Absenteeism can affect children from all income levels, but Ms. Chang noted that children from poor.

Continue reading…

CaseClosed2: Has anyone considered that perhaps attendance is down in Chicago schools because students may be afraid to leave their homes and take a chance of going to school? The murder rate is up in Chicago unless The Chicago Tribune is not telling the truth about the number of young black males shot and murdered in Chicago.

Read and see for yourself…

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Posted by on March 26, 2011 in Education News


Be Careful Who You Offer A Ride

or this could happen to you.

Falsely Imprisoned Teenager Struggles To Afford College

There’s a young man from Atlanta who, in many ways, is no different from the number of responsible and hardworking young African American men frequenting our nation’s colleges. His name is Eric Johnson, and he is currently attending Paine College in Augusta, GA on a partial scholarship and has been promised a full scholarship if he can earn a 3.0 GPA for his freshman year.

Eric, who is close with his mom—especially given the tragic death of his father 3 years ago—has a history of strong academic performance and was an honor student in high school. I’m bringing this young man up not only to tout his accomplishments—something the media needs to spend more time doing for our young African American men—but to highlight how impressive these accomplishments are in view of the dire situation Eric found himself in not so long ago.

On the night of August 17, 2009, a horrific crime rocked the Atlanta area as two men shot 22 year-old Nikki Neely twice in the neck in a home invasion. Robbery was the motive and the men, angered by the lack of money on site, shot the mother and proceeded to senselessly beat her 10-month-old baby. Both mother and child ultimately survived the brutal attack but not without sustaining life-altering injuries.

A day later, after seeing news reports, Eric recognized the suspects as two men he’d given a ride to earlier on the day of the crime. One of the men, Antoine Wimes, he was familiar with because they’d lived in the same housing complex before. And although he didn’t know the second man, Wimes convinced Eric to give him a ride in exchange for gas money, which he needed.

Eric called 911 and told the police he picked up Wimes and another man, drove them to a gas station, bought gas and then took them further down South Fulton Parkway and dropped them off. The police from the district of the crime told him and his mother they would contact them. But once they did, the aggressive manner in which detectives spoke to Eric made his mom uncomfortable about allowing her son to say anything further without a lawyer.

Remarkably, on Thursday, August 27, 2009, Eric was arrested at his home even though the lead detective later admitted he had no evidence that Eric was present at the shooting or knew that Wimes and his partner intended to commit a crime. Eric was subsequently indicted along with Wimes and Donavon McCoy and charged with multiple felonies, including 2 counts of Aggravated Battery, Armed Robbery, Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon, and Cruelty to Children.

All of this, in spite of the fact that in the suspects’ initial statement to police they confirmed they’d been “dropped off” in the area earlier that day, and that an independent witness reported she saw Wimes and McCoy in the area near the time of the crime, but not Eric. Additionally, numerous witnesses confirmed Eric was home long before the crime.

Still, he was thrown in jail, with his family unable to post bond. But, hey, I guess they figured “what’s another Black man in jail?”

Enter Attorney Mawuli Davis from the Davis-Bozeman Law Firm who, after hearing details of Eric’s plight, committed his firm to representing Eric pro bono publico–or, for free. This lawyer joined with Reverend Derrick Rice of Sankofa United Church of Christ in Atlanta and, together–after Eric spent 100 days in jail–they raised funds for the young man’s release on bond.

Out on bond, Eric began taking college classes, and eventually and thankfully all charges were dropped and his record was expunged.

Now this is the kind of story our media seldom shares. The local and national media was all over the place when Eric was paraded around in shackles on TV and accused of a vicious crime he didn’t commit. But his innocence and success since have received little to no press.

But there’s more to the story. Eric still needs to raise $10,000 to complete the remainder of his freshman year, so Pastor Rice has set up a special fund at his church to help pay for Eric’s education.
This is the kind of effort we often say we want to see our churches and our communities involved in.

So, if you’re interested in supporting this resilient young man, you can go to the Eric Johnson Scholarship page at and contribute to a story we need to hear about.

Stephanie Robinson is President and CEO of The Jamestown Project, a national think tank focused on democracy. She is an author, a Lecturer on Law at the Harvard Law School and former Chief Counsel to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Stephanie reaches 8 to 10 million listeners each week as political commentator for the popular radio venue, The Tom Joyner Morning Show. Visit her online at

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Posted by on March 25, 2011 in Education News


Some Of New Jersey’s Public Schools Are Working

New TV ad highlights NJ public schools’ math scores
New Jersey public school students ranked in the top 3 on the 8th grade NAEP Math exam and in the top 5 on the 4th grade NAEP Math exam. (Source: National Center for Education Statistics)

Meet Joetta Cryer, a middle school math teacher in Burlington Township. Mrs. Cryer and her family moved to New Jersey from Mississippi in 2000, intending to only stay for a few years. She and her husband decided to stay indefinitely in New Jersey because of our excellent public schools, which her children attend.

There are great things happening in public schools across New Jersey. Be part of that success: support New Jersey’s great public schools.

More InformationHere are some additional facts about New Jersey’s schools:

■More students took advance placement tests than ever before
■A.P scores for NJ public schools are best in the nation (College Board 2010)
■NJ public school students’ writing scores are best in the nation (National Center for Education Statistics, 2008)

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Posted by on March 24, 2011 in Education News


The Future Of Education Doesn’t Look Good

The Future of Education in America (News Analysis)
By Michelle Melamed, UC Berkeley student,assisted by Raymond Barglow.
Wednesday March 23, 2011

Twenty, maybe even ten years ago, securing a job in the US economy without a college degree was feasible and commonplace. But as a college sophomore in the twenty first century, it’s clear to me and everyone I know that higher education is a must. Sometimes even that will not be enough; with competition more intense that it has been in the past, many will be lucky to land even an internship with their college diploma in hand.

However, quality public school education, not only at the college level but in earlier grades too, is becoming widely inaccessible, as the American education system rapidly declines. There have been many explanations of the problems—and of possible solutions— in our no longer so glorified system, but these accounts are often one-sided or mistaken. The “Race to the Top,” for example, stresses the importance of standardized testing and assessment of teachers based on their students’ scores; Davis Guggenheim’s documentary, Waiting for “Superman” reiterates that unable teachers are the cause of failing schools and neglects the other issues in the education system.

Both the federal program and the documentary filmdisregard the link between low-test scores and life in impoverished neighborhoods where students and their beleaguered families are more likely to be impacted by chronic unemployment, homelessness, crime, malnutrition, andother troubles. Study upon study shows that these circumstances negatively influence a child’s ability to learn and to cope both inside and outside a school environment. Many children do not have a fathering or mothering figure in their lives encouraging them to attend school diligently and do their homework. Thus, no matter how able or qualified teachers may be, they typically do not have the resources necessary to overcome the harsh, discouraging situations that so many students face. Assessment and comparison of teachers’ ability to educate, based on student test scores, is manifestly unjust, given that school settings differ so widely. Good teachers are of course essential in education, but cannot be expected to raise the performance level of students in inner-city schools to that of students from wealthier, more resource-rich communities.

We wouldn’t recognize this from the pronouncements issued by “Race to the Top” officials, but learning in American schools is deeply affected by funding levels and access to educational resources. Today’s budget cuts are disastrous to education. When a school is adequately funded, classrooms are not overcrowded; hallways are not dirty and run-down; quality textbooks are provided to every student; personal attention and “interactive tools” help to address the individual problems that children encounter; physical education facilities contribute to students’ health and well-being. These are conditions that enable teachers to effectively and promisingly teach.

Children learn in many different ways, and teachers develop various methods for reaching them. Over-reliance on standardized tests and standardized education enforces a one-size-fits-all pedagogy that is very inadequate to deal with diversity in our schools. Granted, we do need to look at the quality of teaching in the educational system. Sometimes tenured teachers lack either the ability or the motivation to teach well, and that can be a problem. But when a school is failing in its education mission, it’s highly unlikely that this is just the result of the teachers being incompetent.

Tenure served at the turn of the past century to protect teachers and administrators from being fired for irrational reasons, such as (for a women) getting pregnant. In decades past, the privilege of tenure has indeed been abused; tenure has been given to teachers who have been working in a school for as little as two years. Once a teacher is granted tenure, the process of dismissing him or her becomes very difficult and expensive. Strong teachers’ unions and tenure can inadvertently protect incompetent teachers who are apathetic: Why try or care when you’re (almost) guaranteed lifelong employment?

This is the pressing issue that Waiting for “Superman highlights, and that “Race to the Top” aims to address. But the assumptions shared by the documentary and by federal educational policy are flawed. While the film argues that the demise of the educational system in America is due to incompetent teachers, it neglects to point out why many teachers fail to educate effectively. “Race to the Top” proposes to evaluate teachers according to their students’ test scores – a measurement system not used by other nations that provide a good education to their citizens. (Schools in Finland, for example, which has the highest ranking in the world for its public education, scarcely use standardized tests.) The federal program is especially unfair to those dedicated teachers who work in special needs schools or schools serving impoverished, disadvantaged communities.

I recently interviewed California State Senator Loni Hancock, who is active on the Senate Education Committee, to learn her thoughts about education in California. “The emphasis has shifted from how we can help a child succeed to how can we ‘hold people accountable’ for those children who do not succeed”, said the Senator. This recent approach hasn’t improved education, especially in states such California. Teachers are more inclined to “teach to the test,” Hancock pointed out, and there is “more drilling, more emphasis on repetitive instruction, and narrowing of the curriculum”, which defeats the aim of helping “young people turn into enthusiastic, life-long learners.”

According to Hancock, the use of student test scores to assess teachers, as mandated by“Race to the Top,” leads to fewer teachers wanting to teach in schools with many low performing children: “It is very intimidating for a young, idealistic, enthusiastic teacher, for example, to be put in a very difficult situation in terms of teaching and then be graded on their students’ test score.” This intimidation discourages young people from entering the teaching profession, which may result in having teachers in our schools who are less capable and less motivated to do their jobs well.

In the interview Senator Hancock mentioned John Dewey, one of the great advocates of progressive education in the 20th century, with whom she avidly agrees: “Young people learn by doing things; Education should be very interactive and ‘hands-on,’ and drilling is the opposite of that.” But as budget cuts diminish resources, and the number of students in a classroom increases, it is difficult for teachers to use creative, personalized teaching methods.

California, moreover, faces an additional hurdle in seeking to fund education, because a 2/3 vote is required in the legislature to pass a state budget. “That is why the state budget is always late!” Hancock exclaimed. There is some hope, however. Governor Brown is more sympathetic to education funding than was his predecessor. And Proposition 25, which was passed by California voters last November, lowers the legislative voting requirement to pass a budget from two-thirds to a simple majority. Still, as of mid-March, 2011, the California legislature has not agreed upon a budget for the forthcoming year.

There is no question that America’s education system is in mortal danger. Senator Hancock believes that the essential responsibility for failing schools lies not with teachers but can be traced back to the lawmakers who slash school funding. To be blunt, money, or the lack thereof, is the underlying factor that causes classrooms to overflow and deprives students and teachers of textbooks, facilities, counseling, and other forms of support.

So what’s the solution? Taxing oil companies? Reallocating money from prisons to schools? Transferring funding from war to education? Or can it just be firing all the “bad” teachers in our schools? Improving education in America is not going to be easy. Reforms are needed that will take all the factors of education into consideration, granting teachers the respect they deserve while recognizing students’ birthright to a public education and providing them with adequate educational resources and community support.

CaseClosed2: Perhaps a better idea to learn how students are excelling is to give them on the job so to speak testing. Testing by applying what has been taught similar to what happens on Donald Trumps reality tv show The Apprentice. This method would be better than standarized testing which is merely memorizing what has been taught in order to pass a written test and after passing the test and asked a few weeks after what was learned, students don’t remember. This is not learning subject matter.

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Posted by on March 24, 2011 in Education News


This Week In Education Around The Nation

Here’s a quick look at education news making national headlines this week.

Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond writes a commentary for the Washington Post on a new report that compares the U.S. education system to others in the world such as Korea and Finland.

Darling-Hammond, an education adviser to President Barack Obama during his campaign, says the first international Summit on Teaching last week was an opportunity for the U.S. to learn how to approach the teaching profession differently. The report issued during the summit suggests the key to improving student achievement in the U.S. is to raise the status of the teaching profession by getting more highly qualified candidates, giving them more support and more money.

The Hechinger Report has teamed with several news outlets in the nation to analyze standardized test scores in six states and the District of Columbia. This week, the USA Today published a piece on cheating and new ways to look at testing.

At Yale Law School, officials will soon allow law students to check out a dog named Monty for 30 minutes at a time to help relieve stress.

Is Facebook becoming the new medium to debate state legislative proposals? Two Tennessee lawmakers used Facebook to post dueling responses to education proposals, including bills to limit teacher collective bargaining.

And in Connecticut, lawmakers have put the brakes on some education reforms that included increasing graduation rates and changing tenure rules, saying those changes would require an addition $25 million while state programs – including public schools — are already being reduced.

– Kim Melton

New Jersey Education News

More than 100 shut out of Newark school meeting after auditorium fills to capacity

Chants of “Let us in!” rang out among the more than 100 people who turned out for Newark’s monthly school board meeting who were barred from entering Barringer High School’s auditorium.

Security guards at the entrances said the room was over capacity based on fire safety codes. But for the parents, teachers and students pressing the school’s blue metal doors, this was an unacceptable excuse.

“If it’s an open forum, it should be open to the public,” said Lydia Murcado, a Newark teacher whose children attend Catholic schools. “They should at least have speakers out here so we can hear what’s going on inside.”

Instead those waiting by the doors were treated to speakers blasting support for Kris Pernell, a candidate for Newark’s advisory board whose eligibility for the race has come into question based on her residence.

Linda Grahm, one of those waiting at the auditorium’s door, said she was scheduled to speak publicly at the meeting, which has turned into a heated battle between supporters of charter and district schools. Grahm’s 12-year-old daughter attends TEAM academy, one of the charters set to be given district space under a plan to “co-locate” the schools inside traditional public schools.

“If the space is empty, it makes sense,” said Grahm, amidst frustration that she could not get inside to voice her opinion.

At a quarter to 8 p.m., people were still waiting outside demanding entry.

“You know musical chairs? This is like musical doors,” said one person outside trying different doors to enter the school.

More than 1,000 cram into Newark school to debate plan to expand charters into Newark school campuses

They crammed into the close confines of the Barringer High School auditorium, more than 1,000 parents, students and educators strong. Dozens were even turned away from the overflow scene.

This was no ordinary school board meeting in Newark tonight. This was a spirited outcry over a plan to co-locate charter schools with traditional schools in the state’s largest school district.

While tensions simmered with the occasional boiled-over reaction, the debate over a plan that would introduce charter schools into 10 Newark school campuses that officials say are under-utilized was civilly heard.

“We get to the point when we finally have manageable enrollment, and they’re telling us that they’re going to introduce charters,” said Newark Teachers Union president Joseph Del Grosso, who mobilized hundreds of members to attend tonight’s meeting. “You’re telling us you’re using us. That’s what you’re telling the people of Newark — that we’re using you.”

Since the first iteration of the plan was made public last month, parents, students and teachers have criticized it as an unfair encroachment into district school campuses. But charter school advocates said their primary concern is creating more school choice in a district that graduates only half of its students.

“This is about providing high-quality public schools to as many children as possible in Newark,” said Mashea Ashton, chief executive of the Newark Charter School Fund. “I think this is really, hopefully, a cry for action that the status quo can no longer exist in Newark.”

Hours before the meeting, Mayor Cory Booker, who is staking his political future on the success of school reform in Newark, urged calm.

• More than 100 shut out of Newark school meeting after auditorium fills to capacity

• Crowds expected at Newark meeting to debate charters sharing campuses with district schools

• Joan Whitlow: School plan worked on paper, but not with people

“I hope everyone keeps the focus on our kids and through their actions tonight set an example for them on how a public dialogue can elevate and even unite a community and not devolve it into a tortuous state of division,” he said.

By 6 p.m. the auditorium had filled. Charter supporters and district supporters were equally divided through two hours of public remarks.

Leonard Pugliese, representing Newark administrators, said phasing out schools would undermine progress in the city’s schools.

“All of us in here know that smaller learning communities are the way to go,” he said. “The closing of NPS schools makes absolutely no sense.”

Del Grosso received vocal support from the crowd after a speech that referenced Robert Frost and Shakespeare. The biggest point of contention seemed to be whether Del Grosso as NTU president should have 10 minutes to speak as opposed to the allotted three.

Leslie Foster, a parent, said the debate had grown misguided.

“Once again, we are fighting each other and not fighting conditions,” she said. “This fight isn’t about charter schools versus traditional schools. This fight is about why our kids are failing.”

Hydeia Austin, a senior at Malcolm X Shabazz High School, received loud ovations when she said a plan to co-locate the new charter “Spirit Prep” with Shabazz was treating students like “guinea pigs.”

“Didn’t anyone think about the impact this would have on students already enrolled?” she said. “If these new schools want to become part of the Newark community, then they must build their own buildings and not take what is rightfully ours!”

The plan rankled community members when it was first leaked in late February. It called for the co-location of several new and low-performing charter schools inside district school campuses. It also allowed for successful charters such as NorthStar and TEAM to inhabit schools with low enrollment, such as Fifteenth Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. schools.

Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf has been a champion of the expansion, saying the schools that will house the new charters have wasted space.

“It simply makes no sense for some Newark Public School buildings to sit half-empty while public charter schools are forced to use their scarce operating dollars to seek and pay for private facilities,” Cerf said in a statement.

Charter schools are hoping to gain access to the district schools for little or no rent.

They are awarded roughly 90 percent of the taxpayer funds that district schools receive and are not allowed to use that money on building their own facilities. Many charters also receive private donations which they can use in any manner.

Cerf also recalled that former Newark superintendents Clifford Janey and Marion Bolden were in favor of the co-location of charter schools and district schools.

“That is why both Dr. Janey and Dr. Bolden allowed co-location of charter schools and why we believe that this policy is a sensible solution to anyone who puts the interests of kids first,” Cerf said.

CaseClosed2: Schools within schools makes absolutely no sense to me. How about getting Newark Public Schools to work by implementing what the best charter schools are doing to achieve student success? There’s no magic bullet involved. Everyone has to do his part to educate every child which includes teachers, students, parents school administrators and the community as a whole. Remember, it still takes a village.

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Posted by on March 23, 2011 in Education News


Thanks To Governor Of New Jersey Christie New Jersey Students Didn’t Get A Quality Education

And to think I thought Christe wanted every child to get a quality education. Not so with so many cuts in education. Frown!

Christie’s budget cuts left N.J. schools unable to provide ‘thorough and efficient’ education, judge rules

Gov. Chris Christie’s deep cuts to state school aid last year left New Jersey’s schools unable to provide a “thorough and efficient” education to the state’s nearly 1.4 million school children, a Superior Court judge found today.

Judge Peter Doyne, who was appointed as special master in the long-running Abbott vs. Burke school funding case, today issued an opinion that also found the reductions “fell more heavily upon our high risk districts and the children educated within those districts.”

“Despite spending levels that meet or exceed virtually every state in the country, and that saw a significant increase in spending levels from 2000 to 2008, our ‘at risk’ children are now moving further from proficiency,” he said.

The Abbott vs. Burke case landed back in court after the Education Law Center, a Newark-based school advocacy group, filed a motion charging that Christie’s aid cuts violated the state’s school funding formula.

Christie slashed state aid by $820 million last year, and Doyne found that altogether, the state would have needed twice that much — $1.6 billion — to fully fund the School Funding Reform Act formula.

Following arguments before the Supreme Court earlier this year, Doyne was appointed to hold a hearing on the case, and issue recommendations.

The state Attorney General’s Office argued that the cuts were necessary because of New Jersey’s dire financial situation. Doyne acknowledged that, but still found against the state.

“The difficulty in addressing New Jersey’s fiscal crisis and its constitutionally mandated obligation to educate our children requires an exquisite balance not easily attained,” Doyne wrote. “Something need be done to equitably address these competing imperatives. That answer, though, is beyond the purview of this report. For the limited question posed to the Master, it is clear the State has failed to carry its burden.”

The finding now goes back to the New Jersey Supreme Court, which can choose to act on it.

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Posted by on March 22, 2011 in Education News


Michelle Obama Knows The Importance Of Education

Michelle Obama: Education Prepared Me For The World Written by Associated Press

RENCA, Chile — Studying hard as a young woman is what prepared Michelle Obama to face the world’s challenges, the United States’ first lady told students Monday at a public school that Chile’s government hopes will become a model for educational excellence in the country.

Students in red uniforms cheered enthusiastically and waved Chilean and U.S. flags as Mrs. Obama arrived at the Summit of the Condors of Renca Institute.

“It wasn’t so long ago that my husband and I were young people just like you, dreaming the same dream and facing the same challenges,” Mrs. Obama said, describing how she and her husband, President Barack Obama, both grew up poor and with few resources. Their success, she said was due to their good educations.

“Growing up there was never any question in my parents’ mind that we would go to college. … And they always told us that even if we weren’t rich, we were just as smart and just as capable as anyone else. … They thought us that if we dreamed big enough and if we worked hard enough anything was possible. In my country we call that the American Dream and I think it’s also true right here in Chile.”

There is broad consensus that Chile’s free public education system does a poor job of preparing the vast majority of students, and contributes to inequalities throughout Chilean society. Similar problems are evident around Latin America: None of the region’s universities appeared in a recent list of the world’s top 200 higher education institutes.

Wealthier Chileans generally attend elite private schools that prepare students for top universities abroad, while the public system suffers from poorly trained teachers and underfunding, a legacy of dictator Augusto Pinochet’s 1981 decision to put local governments in charge of public schools, rather than the national Education Ministry.

The year-old government of President Sebastian Pinera has pointed to magnet schools as part of the solution, with plans to create 50 model “schools of excellence” around the country by 2012.

The Summit of the Condors is one such school, inaugurated last year by Pinera himself. Based in Renca, a working-class city of 131,000 people on the outskirts of the capital, the school has 700 students, 70 percent of whom are chosen for their academic merit and 30 percent by lottery.

Already, 30 such highly competitive schools have opened, choosing from a total of 10,000 applicants nationwide. Their standards are high, and students who fail to maintain their grades are forced out.

Mrs. Obama said that she was quite impressed by what she’s been told about the Renca model school, but told students that they would have to share their success with others.

“After you’ve taken control of your own destiny and pulled yourselves up, then I want you to look back and to pull someone else up after you,” she said. “For those fortunate enough to reach our goals, it is our obligation to help someone else do the same.”

Critics say Chile’s model schools fall far short of the comprehensive reform the South American country needs.

“Public education needs fundamental changes, structural changes, with new forms of administration and financing, and all of the public schools need to be administered by the state,” teachers union President Jaime Gajardo said in an interview.

Martin Carnoy, a Stanford University expert in comparative education, predicts the model school plan will fail without major improvements in educating teachers nationwide.

“Their idea is to create good schools that will set a standard for the others that the others can copy. And this won’t work, because they’ll concentrate the resources in a few good schools,” Carnoy said. “The others aren’t prepared.”

More hopeful is Victor Ruiz, 25, who teaches philosophy and critical thinking at the Renca school and believes that each successful classroom can have a huge multiplier effect.

“The idea is to integrate into the system high-value human capital, get involved in the mechanics of it, and give it oxygen and new energy,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz gave up a career in journalism to become one of 80 teachers, thus far, to enlist with Teach Chile — a program based on the Teach for America program in the United States, in which young professionals volunteer for two years in public schools, usually in poorer communities. Teachers in Teach Chile are paid the same amount as instructors in other schools.

“The classroom is where change has to happen. If the students can achieve their goals, then we’re all happy,” Ruiz said. “My message to these kids is: Yes, you can do it.”

After the school visit, Mrs. Obama and her daughters, Sasha and Melia, planned to visit an interactive children’s museum in Chile’s capital, Santiago.

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Posted by on March 22, 2011 in Education News


The Race To The Top?

The Race to the Top Scheme

Henry W. Burke and Donna Garner – Let’s pose a question. If you wanted to “sell” something that a number of people did not need, how would you do it? You might try setting up a contest where everyone competes for a significant financial prize. After all, Americans love to compete, especially when money goes to the winner.

Here are the contest details: The competitors are strapped for cash; the competitors must give up some of their prized possessions in order to qualify; and the game organizers do not announce all of the rules until the game is well underway. How fair does this sound?

This is exactly what Barack Obama and U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have done with Common Core Standards (CCS) and Race to the Top (RTTT).

Under Obama and Duncan, the federal takeover of our schools is rapidly spreading across our nation.

It is not too late for the “contestants” to quit playing this game. States that have taken no federal Common Core Standards (CCS) money can drop out of the game. Even states that have received some of their Race to the Top funds could make a plea to Congress to pass a “hold harmless” clause that would allow these states some relief.

The questions that states must answer are, “Do we really want the federal government taking control of our public schools? How much will it cost the cash-strapped states to handle the extra expense of CCS / RTTT?”

The U.S. Department of Education created the Race to the Top program under the Stimulus Bill (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA) in early 2009. With a federal grant of $4.35 billion, Arne Duncan had a very large “carrot“ to lure the states to enter the competition.

Have you ever been in a game where the game organizer made up the rules while the game was being played? That is what the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) did in Race to the Top. The Department issued numerous rules, corrections, and modifications while the competition was underway.

Duncan waited until the state contracts were signed before he made the rest of the plan clear: States would have to adopt the Common Core Standards (national standards) in order to qualify for Race to the Top funds. Other “surprises” included national assessments, national curriculum, and an elaborate national tracking system to link student assessment scores to individual teachers.

The Education Department conducted the Race to the Top (RTTT) in two phases. On 3.29.10, the Department announced that the two “winners” of Phase 1 were Delaware (#1) and Tennessee (#2).

On 8.24.10, the Department announced the ten “winners” for Phase 2. The winning states were ranked from #1 (first place) to #10 (tenth place). The ten winners were: #1 — Massachusetts, #2 — New York, #3 — Hawaii, #4 — Florida, #5 — Rhode Island, #6 — District of Columbia, #6 — Maryland, #8 — Georgia, #9 — North Carolina, #10 — Ohio. (Note that neighbors D.C. and Maryland tied for sixth place, and there was no seventh place.)

The 12 RTTT winners and the Award amounts are shown in the Table, Race to the Top (RTTT) Awards. The Table also lists the rank for each state in the Phase 1 competition and the Phase 2 competition. Note that Alaska, North Dakota, Texas, and Vermont did not participate. We commend these states for not playing the game.

We reluctantly entered the word “award” in this Table. The Education Department uses the term “award” to apply to the grant passed to the winning states. On the dates mentioned above, the Department notified each “winning” Governor with an “Award Letter” that specified the dollar amount of the grant.

Of course, federal awards or grants must come from somewhere. We taxpayers pay huge amounts of money in taxes to the federal government, and it returns a small portion back to the states and calls it an “award” or “grant.” This is not free money!

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Posted by on March 21, 2011 in Education News