Home » Newswire Weekly » Newswire: December 4, 2012

Newswire: December 4, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 33

LINCOLN v LOUISIANA. When Lincoln led the charge to enact the 13h amendment and abolish slavery, our world was forever changed. While it would be decades before most African-Americans would be treated equally, civil rights was set in motion. Does anyone want to fly Louisiana Judge Timothy Kelley to a private showing of Lincoln, the movie? He’s the guy who just Friday ruled against the progressive scholarship program that helps poor and mainly African-American kids to be treated like a whole person and actually get an education befitting a whole person. Kelley is hardly unbiased as judges go. As the Wall Street Journal opined, “Louisiana Judge Timothy Kelley sure is a fast writer. Only hours after the end of a two-day trial, the Balzac of the judiciary rolled out a 39-page opinion striking down the state’s pioneering voucher program as unconstitutional. Could it be that he knew how he was going to rule before the trial?” While LA governor Bobby Jindal, aided by the Institute for Justice, will appeal the decision, and while the US Supreme Court has already upheld an identical case like this for Ohio once setting precedents for state programs all over the country, isn’t it time that we consider a more Lincolnesque move to forever sanction education equity for kids? Just saying.

MANDATE FOR CHANGE. Four years ago, leading thinkers and doers joined us to issue a Mandate for the then-new government of Barack Obama, giving evidence-based recommendations for how to sanction not just school choice nationally, but how to improve all education structures, from teachers, to standards to charter schools. Kevin Chavous said charters were closing the learning gap for millions of children. Former news editor Richard Whitmire implored us to consider teacher quality, something that is successfully in the education psyche today. Everything old is new again in Washington so dust off this important guide and get moving on solidifying a truly big mandate for change today.

BOSTON PATRIOTS? Not more than 20 miles from the birthplace of revolution are schools that would have made the Founders turn and beg forgiveness from the King. Sound dramatic? Sorry, but it’s one thing when schools are failing and no one seems to be trying to help those kids do better. It’s another thing when a highly successful school provider wants to invest time and money to set up a full K-12 school to provide quality options for kids, and is met with hostility. Widely acclaimed by the local media, parents and teachers, SABIS Education has designed a school with local community leaders to arrest the decline of education in diverse, working class Brockton, which is in the bottom 10% of districts statewide based on the state MCAS exams, and a level 3 District, which means it is among the lowest 20% relative to other schools in their grade span statewide. “SABIS students in Holyoke and Springfield consistently outperform peers from similar socioeconomic backgrounds,” confirms the Boston Globe. But the former superintendent squashed earlier attempts for new SABIS schools, and now The International Charter School of Brockton is bracing for a fight by opponents who are running the group through a serious of typical charter “traps”; spreading misinformation and fear over everything from money to traffic and will culminate in a public airing on December 18th. None of the hearings before or now are about kids’ futures, mind you. None.

DANIELS v PODESTA. No, it’s not a new legal case, but it might well represent the distinguishing argument between those who claim to be reformers, and those who truly are. Jeb Bush’s ability to attract super stars to his Foundation for Education Excellence’s conference allowed participants to see a real contrast in action. Former Clinton guru and Democratic strategist John Podesta delivered an engaging talk about education reform, but pointed out that reformers lost many battles, a fact he believes will only be solved when reformers learn to get along with teachers unions. Podesta argues the union leaders at the national level are becoming quite progressive. Of course, we’ve all heard the talk, but we haven’t seen the walk. Nor will we likely ever see a walk that puts parents first and takes a hard line against failure by a membership organization which has to, by nature, put employment issues above education ones. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels agrees. When asked by this editor if he agreed with Podesta that reformers should moderate their message and their work to win battles, he said, simply “No.” He went on to tell the story of outright lies that the unions perpetrated to oust Education Super Tony Bennett, using tax funds to send kids home with distortions and lies like carrier pigeons. [Our words, not his.] This isn’t new to Indiana, so let’s all take a breath and remember that reform isn’t about getting along. It’s about getting educated.

TURN ALL SCHOOLS INTO CHARTERS? That’s what the Washington Examiner’s Mark Lerner is asking, in light of yet more data that shows charters pummeling district school grad rates. “… Mayor Gray’s constant assertion that there is ‘One City, One Future,’ [is] quite different when it comes to public high school graduation rates. You see in 2011 the traditional schools recorded the percentage of students earning a diploma in four years at 59 percent, the smallest number across the entire United States. This compares to a rate of 77 for public charter schools, even though, as the editors explain, ‘more than half of all charter students live in Wards 7 and 8, which have the highest poverty rates in the city.’ At Friendship Collegiate Academy, in Ward 7, every senior was accepted to college and their overall graduation rate was an astonishing 90 percent.”

In Other News…

Information is power, and if you’re an educator or leader wanting to do more to engage lagging students, you might consider spending an hour on a webinar with the Appalachia Regional Lab who says they have a few answers. “Increasing Student Engagement in Low Performing Schools” will be held a week from today, December 11, from 1:00-2:00 EST. Sign up here.

Final Thoughts…

…The more we get to know the Common Core, the more it seems scholars and educators are finding predictable problems. Dec 2’s Washington Post exposes a rift between the standards setters who think more non-fiction is the key to better literacy and those who believe we can’t possibly scale back literature anymore than we already have. Incidentally, deToqueville was practically my boyfriend in College, but it’s great works of art and literature that drive truly thoughtful students to be able to even handle Democracy in America later on. And far from a commitment to the intellectuals who shaped our nation, requiring more “non-fiction” may result in newspaper reading over Plato.

…And what about more time in class and school? That issue has been around since the 80s at least and somewhere along the lines reformers began to recognize that having more time is like having more food — unless it’s part of a menu of things you do, it doesn’t necessarily make you any more healthy or in this case, any more educated. Teachers with more time need more money, but do teachers who can do more with less get more money? When will time and achievement start going hand in hand?