February 13, 2013

IFF Study Back to Front and Center in DC

The DC Council’s Education Committee just completed it’s “performance oversight” hearing for the Deputy Mayor for Education. DC’s IFF study was heavily referenced by Chair David Catania and by DME Leonard throughout, esp. near adjournment, as though it had never been discredited and as though “tiers” and “seats” and “under-performing schools” were facts. (Here’s more on the IFF).

At one point, Catania was reading his report — almost as though looking at moveable pieces on a game board — and declaring, “Tier 4. Closed. Don’t be sentimental.”

Over many months, advocates were repeatedly told — by Chair Phil Mendelson, e.g. — that the IFF study was not being considered at all. Citizens were never given an opportunity to discuss it, despite promises in February. “Community Conversations” over the summer were designed by the DME, with assistance from the outside nonprofit Public Agenda, to focus on “quality” without allowing participants to discuss the IFF at all; participants, however, offered some remarks anyway (see Quality Schools Reports). But the DME has left unfulfilled every promise to the public of last July regarding those “community conversations.”

Following the Community Conversations, the Deputy Mayor for Education will release a brief report that includes summary notes from each Conversation. The Deputy Mayor will use these community suggestions to inform a list of recommendations to DCPS, the Public Charter School Board, and charter LEAs as to how they can increase the number of quality seats in high-need neighborhood clusters. This report will be released in Fall of 2012.

The notes from those conversations were never released. And when they were posted here in December, the DME’s office said Public Agenda had released them “erroneously.” Later, The Education Town Hall was told that Public Agenda had “published them.” Today, DME Leonard “apologizes” to citizens and says they will look into why they were never posted by Public Agenda (despite the fact that the DME promised repeatedly to do that sharing itself and NEVER sent out any notice to citizens say, e.g. “notes are ready at Public Agenda.”)

More, including other important aspects of the hearing, soon.

[More here]
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February 7, 2013

Ed Tech Bill Sponsor and Ed Tech Corporate Money

The “Transforming Education through Technology Act” was introduced in the House by Rep. George Miller (D-CA). The bill’s purposes are as follows:
1. Utilize technology to improve student outcomes and skills of teachers and school leaders
2. Transform the way students learn and schools operate through technology
3. Build technology infrastructure, including hardware, wiring, connectivity, and devices

Congressman Miller said in his Feb. 5 statement that the proposed legislation would “speed adoption of innovative digital tools to improve student outcomes, close achievement gaps, boost educator skills and improve efficiency and productivity.” His statement does not add that the act would authorize $500 million in federal spending on education technology for 2014 and the following four years.

Miller is ranking Democrat on the House Education & the Workforce Committee. He is also, according to the Open Secrets campaign transparency site, the recipient of over $100,000 in campaign contributions over the past decade from the Apollo Group, a for-profit organization operating on-line high schools as well as post-secondary programs. Other donors include ITT Education Services, provider of technically-oriented post-secondary programs; the Broad Foundation, which supports digital learning and other innovations in education; and the Alliance for Excellent Education.

The Alliance for Excellent Education is the creator of “Digital Learning Day.” And it was in honor of Digital Learning Day that Miller introduced the legislation. The Alliance for Excellent Education is directed by former governor Bob Wise, who — along with former governor Jeb Bush — spearheads a number of organizations promoting digital learning and the legislative environment that makes it profitable.

See also “Suiting Educational Policy to Corporate Stakeholders” and “Targeted Philanthropy and the New Focus on ‘Competency’ Graduation Requirements” with particular reference to the District of Columbia.

December 19, 2012

What’s The Rush to Consolidate Schools?

Consider the Source

Why is DC Public Schools proposing to close 20 traditional public schools, while the District has yet to develop any policy on neighborhood schools of right within a landscape including many charter schools? Why the rush, before any long-range planning? During November Council hearings, citizen after citizen raised these questions. A recent Washington Post letter to the editor, from leading education budget and policy analyst Mary Levy, also asks: “What’s the Rush…?”

The answer likely lies in the source of the “education” strategy behind the proposal.
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December 16, 2012

Dis-Ambiguation: DC Quality Schools Process

Communities have been scarred by institutional and government decision‐making that has been done behind closed doors and with motivations that are perceived as self‐serving rather than community‐serving. Demonstrating how the results of the community conversations have been used to inform decision making would be a small step toward demonstrating a commitment to building more transparency at the City level.
— from the “DC Quality Schools Reports,” prepared by Public Agenda

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December 14, 2012

DC’s Quality School Reports

Here, courtesy of Public Agenda, are the reports the Deputy Mayor for Education promised to share with us months ago. The creation date on the PDFs is 11/7, and Public Agenda seemed puzzled as to why community members had not seem them yet. (The DME’s last report was that the documents could be expected publicly sometime around Christmas.)

DC Quality Schools – Comprehensive Summary – FINAL

DC Quality Schools – Ward Level Summary – FINAL

In the interest of sharing, posted before reading. Hope to consider contents soon.

UPDATE: My report, after reading and discussing with the DME and others, appeared on We Act Radio, 12/20/12.

UPDATE 1/13/13: All 12 days of Christmas — and another week after that — have come and gone without word from the DME. Meanwhile, however, the DME was asked if they dispute anything in the materials they claim Public Agenda “erroneously” released: no response beyond “we’ll get back to you.”

December 14, 2012

DCPS Still Following St. Louis’ Dangerous Path?

Brief Report from We Act Radio’s Education Town Hall, 12/13/12

School closings are on many citizens’ minds as the District waits for the Mayor and DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson to make their final determinations regarding the fate of 20 DC public schools currently slated for closing.

Back in 2007, when Adrian Fenty was mayor and Michelle Rhee was DC’s new Schools Chancellor, the District hired the global consulting firm of Alvarez & Marsal for school system advice. A&M had previously served as interim manager of St. Louis Public Schools, in 2003-04, supervising the closure of 16 schools, the sale of an additional 40 buildings, and the firing of 1400 employees. This was meant to bring financial stability to the system.

By the time A&M arrived in DC in 2007, to recommend similar measures, SLPS had already lost accreditation, enrollment was still declining, and more closures were planned. DC went ahead and followed A&M’s recommendations, however. And DCPS appears to be still following the A&M plan as it approaches another 20 closures. (see DCPS_Dangerous_Path in Washington’s Hill Rag)

So, I decided to check in on SLPS to see where they are now, nine years after A&M’s leadership. In the last few years, enrollment further declined. The system just months ago achieve provisional accreditation. This fall (2012) enrollment climbed for the first time in more than a decade only because the state of Missouri closed six St. Louis charter schools, and some students returned to SLPS as a result.

And yet DCPS is continuing to follow a path which has failed to stabilize St. Louis public schools and has failed to stabilize other school systems across the country.
–Virginia Spatz
reporting for We Act Radio’s Education Town Hall
12/13/12

Hear the subsequent conversation on the Education Town Hall archives
Tune in (nationwide) Thursdays, at 11 a.m.
We Act Radio

*We Act Radio, 1918 Martin Luther King Ave. SE Washington, DC 20020*
*Education Town Hall Host: Thomas Byrd, thomas.byrd@yahoo.com*
*December 13, 2012*

December 6, 2012

Voluntary Sensibility for DCPS?

With its recent proposal to “consolidate” 20 public schools out of existence, DC Public Schools’ administration continues to march in lock-step with the Walton family education program: focus on “teacher effectiveness” and close schools. But DCPS has yet to demonstrate any understanding of, or interesting in, addressing issues fundamental to the District’s education challenges.

DCPS continues to speak about “quality” schools without addressing staggering achievement disparities, in terms of race and income, within those very schools. Meanwhile, the consolidation plan disproportionately affects African American and low-income populations, closing nine schools in east-of -the-river Wards 7 and 8, in predominantly African American and lower income neighborhoods.

In a school system with roughly 10% students of European descent, a major magnet high school now has a white population of 36%. ([Update: I am seeking exact numbers to correct earlier error] Until very recently, School Without Walls SHS had somewhere between 14 and 29% white students, as far as I can tell.) Will the proposal to expand this school increase the disparity or ameliorate it? Has DCPS considered this? Citizens are not told.

Over the years of mayoral control, there have been occasional vague references to educational disparities between schools “east of the river” and those west of the Anacostia and to those “west of the park” and those east of Rock Creek Park. But income and race are not discussed in any coherent way.

Has DCPS engaged in research to explore racial and income differences in achievement and if/how those disparities are affected by attendance at an out-of-boundary school? Has anyone tried to find out why the oft-touted “quality” schools, Wilson SHS and School Without Walls, continue to show such large income and racial disparities in scores? Are Black and Hispanic out-of-boundary students better off at those schools, even with their wide statistical disparities, than in their neighborhood high school?

Do we have any idea? If not, why not?

And, if not, what basis is there for closing any school before figuring out what truly serves our diverse population??

The District is in desperate need of vision, research and planning that includes issues relating to race.
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November 15, 2012

“Quality” Seats With or Without Walls??

The District of Columbia is considering a long-awaited “DCPS School Consolidations and Reorganization: Better Schools for Our Students.” As DC considers this plan to make schools “better,” it is imperative to consider what DCPS means by “quality” and who will have access to it.
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November 15, 2012

DCPS Proudly Advertises Guinea Pig Status

A recent DCPS job listing proudly advertises:

In the 2009-2010 school year, DCPS implemented a groundbreaking new teacher evaluation system, IMPACT. Other key initiatives to come out of the Office of Human Capital over the past two years include a revolutionary teachers’ contract and an innovative performance pay system designed to provide the best educators in DCPS with an unprecedented level of compensation for the extraordinary work that they do. This work places DCPS at the vanguard of the national education policy landscape, as states and districts, spurred by the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top grant program, increasingly focus on teacher quality and look to DCPS initiatives as models of best practice.

The school system may be advertising for a Teacher Effectiveness Coordinator here, but DCPS might as well add a neon sign declaring, “will serve as guinea pig for funds.”

August 19, 2012

Ward 4 “Got the Work Done”

Ward 4’s “Quality Schools Community Conversation,” organized by DC’s Deputy Mayor for Education with help from Public Agenda, was held on August 18. Here is an open letter from Geraldine Washington, Ward 7 activist and participant in the Ward 4 event.
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