Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Tackling education funding and income inequality through policy

In California State Senator Nancy Skinner of Berkeley has proposed a new corporate tax that will raise taxes based on the pay gap between executive staff and their employees.  The additional tax revenue would be used to fund early childhood education and other education programs in the state.  

Monday, April 1, 2019

Repeat Offenders Make Millions of Taxpayers Through Charters

The latest story of charter operators profiting from taxpayers comes from the Los Angeles Times.  Clark and Jeanette Parker quietly siphoned off taxpayer dollars by renting their own property for charter schools and approving their own actions.  The two most striking takeaways from this story for me were:

Friday, March 22, 2019

Bullis Charter: Update

So, in an interesting twist to the Bullis charter expansion school into a new the Mountain View Whisman School district previously discussed on this blog, today, the board of Bullis Mountain View (BMV) abruptly cancelled their plans to open the school in Fall 2019.  The Superintendent was surprised to hear of the board's decision.  He had been planning on meeting with them today.  The head of school Jennifer Anderson-Rosse cited the district making too restrictive demands such as enrolling students in the school to match the demographics of the district. She argued that imposing a quota was illegal.  Racial quotas are illegal.  The district asked for representation based on income.  In other words the school had to serve low-income students not just the wealthier kids in the city.  So, Mountain View stays charter free for the moment.  

RIGOR the second most overused, misunderstood word in education

I know what you are thinking. what is the FIRST most overused, misunderstood word in education.  For that you will have to stay tuned...For now, let's talk about RIGOR.

Depending on who you talk to rigor means different things.  The original goal of the more "rigorous" classroom was to provide students with assignments that challenged them intellectually; required problem-solving and analytical thinking.  In other words eliminate all the worksheet type thinking.  

In its actual implementation, rigor has its challenges.  It can mean that learning can't be fun, that students cannot receive support, and that the curriculum is inflexible, harsh and strict.  Of rigor Diane Ravitch, the education historian turned advocate, says "whenever you hear the word “rigor,” think rigor mortis." It can also just mean take more "rigorous courses" i.e. higher level math and science.  Yet, we know that even though students take geometry and algebra at a higher rate than in the past, many pass those courses and still end up needing to take remedial math courses in college.  In other words the quality of the courses may be deteriorating in a quest to say more students are completing the rigorous curriculum.  

Perhaps the most egregious use of rigor is "build grit" in students.  One interpretation suggest that teachers should not support students.  If they offer help, teachers are "reducing" the rigor of the classroom.  

This is simply just wrong.   Rigor began with the idea of eliminating low-level thinking assignments.  Instead, it has become a mess of misinterpreted, misused teaching practices all wrapped up in a single word.  Perhaps, it is simply time to eliminate another buzzword and focus on supporting our teachers and our students.

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." - Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Taking on charter schools in California through the Legislature

With Governor Newsom open to exploring the role of charters on the California education landscape, a new wave of legislation has been proposed to restrict or reduce the role of charters across the state.  The pro-charter movement in the state played a large role in the 2018 election.  In the gubernotrial primary, charter supporters gave $23 million to pro-charter candidate Antonio Villaraigosa, who failed to make it in to the top 2 spots for the general election.  They also spent an estimated $36 million to support pro-charter candidate Marshall Tuck for State Superintendent of Education.  Tuck lost narrowly to Tony Thurmond.  Now, with Newsom and Thurmond in place, legislators are working on bills that rethink the charter movement:

Monday, March 18, 2019

The arrogance of the rich: the story of Bullis

In Los Altos, California, an area where the median house price as of this writing is $3,391,900 according to Zillow and the median income is $157,500 a year  (the US median is $53,482), wealthy parents in neighboring Los Altos Hills were upset that the Los Altos School District closed their school because of low enrollment (you can read the full story here).  These highly resourced parents started a battle with the district by petitioning for a charter school.  The district turned them down.  Unfortunately, under the law at the time, the county was able to override the district decision and the district was forced to provide space.  

Thursday, March 14, 2019

On the college game

The internet is all a buzz with the latest college scandal: celebrities and rich people bribing their way into elite schools such as Stanford, University of Southern California and Yale.  In the latest turn, two Stanford University students are suing the universities named in the scandal citing "fraud."  The fact that system is rigged isn't really new.  The system is rigged from the start.  We know that only some students get extra tutoring to prepare for test prep, only some students have access to elite classes and schools, and if we start even further back, we know that students do not enter kindergarten on equal footing.