Does Anyone in Education Reform Care If Teaching is a Profession?

Bob Braun, retired veteran reporter for the New jersey Star Ledger and current independent blogger, reported earlier this month that state-appointed Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson announced that Newark teachers seeking graduate education would only get district stipends if they did all of their study at the Relay “Graduate School of Education.”  For those who are unfamiliar, Relay “Graduate School of Education” was singled out as an innovator by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan last November, but it is a “Graduate School of Education” that has not a single professor or doctoral level instructor or researcher affiliated with it.  In essence, it is a partnership of charter school chains Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Achievement First, and it is housed in the Uncommon Schools affiliated North Star Academy.  Relay’s “curriculum” mostly consists of taking the non-certified faculty of the charter schools, giving them computer delivered modules on classroom management (and distributing copies of Teach Like a Champion), and placing them under the auspices of the “no excuses” brand of charter school operation and teachers who already have experience with it.

In the case of North Star Academy in Newark, that means that the teachers who earn certification through Relay “Graduate School of Education” will have “instructors” who meet state requirements for faculty degrees by the school claiming “equivalency” because they are such amazing teachers who get amazing results.  In Relay’s words that is “the equivalent of the leading entrepreneur teaching in MBA programs or the leading writers and artists teaching in MFA programs.”  That’s quite a lofty claim, especially when Dr. Bruce Baker of Rutgers University has demonstrated (repeatedly) that the “awesome” results of North Star are deeply connected to how the school has many fewer students with high needs due to poverty, language, or disabilities issues, how it suspends students at rates much higher than district schools, and how an African American male who enrolls in 5th grade has only a 40% chance to staying at the school until 12th grade.

So, there you have it: a “Graduate School of Education” without a single professor of education, offering teacher certification and degrees to the employees of the charter school in which it is housed, specializing in a curriculum that emphasizes teaching and discipline strategies that successfully drive away more than half the students whose families deliberately sought out the school in the first place. And THIS will be the sole provider of compensated continuing education for all of the teachers in the Newark Public Schools.

sheldon-throwspapers

What makes the embrace of Relay “Graduate School of Education” in Newark, Trenton, and Washington D.C. so frustrating is that university-based teacher preparation continues to have the standards for our graduates raised by the very same entities that think Relay should be allowed to call itself a graduate school and confer certification and degrees.  Trenton, in particular, is barreling ahead with proposed revisions to teacher certification rules that university-based programs will need to adhere to whether or not there is evidence that they will result in better teachers.  Currently, the young people who wish to become teachers must meet entrance criteria upon matriculating at our school.  Once in they must maintain a minimum GPA to take classes in their education major.  In addition to a full major in education courses, they must have a major in a content field within the College of Arts and Sciences, and they must take additional coursework in a liberal arts core to fulfill both university requirements and state requirements of a minimum number of credits in liberal arts courses.  Our program has extensive field work prior to student teaching that go beyond current state requirements that our students must coordinate with their full time class schedule.  The state also requires that all students seeking certification pass Praxis II examinations.  Various changes to the code requirements are under consideration in Trenton, all of which will make it more difficult for people to seek certification at universities.  Entrance requirements may be increased, or potential students can demonstrate “readiness” to begin their studies with another standardized exam.  The state is considering requiring what would amount to a year-long student teaching experience, and the next version of the state code will almost certainly require teacher candidates to submit a performance assessment to the state which, for all intents and purposes, will require most universities to adopt Pearson’s EdTPA assessment.

All of this probably sounds great if you agree uncritically with self appointed teacher quality watchdog, National Council on Teacher Quality, that declared teacher preparation an “industry of mediocrity” in a report so exhaustively researched that they failed to visit a single university campus and gleaned most of their quality “data” from online catalogs and program descriptions.  For more cautious observers, changes like these might be intriguing, but they come with questions and trade offs.  The biggest question is whether there is any evidence at all that trimming the available corps of potential teachers entering preparation and then holding those who make it in to more rigorous benchmarks will result in better learning in their eventual classrooms.  Critics of traditional teacher preparation often criticize the academic caliber of students entering teacher preparation without noting a very obvious point: if being the best student was absolutely essential to being the best teacher, then the nation’s professoriate would enjoy a much better reputation for teaching skills.

However, even beyond the question of evidence, advocates for increasing requirements on traditional teacher preparation need to acknowledge there are trade offs for increasing standards and requirements this way. Increasing the necessary test scores for entry into a program means that certain populations of students may not be able to even begin teacher preparation and prove their ability in a timely fashion and be effectively locked out of undergraduate study in the field (you can have one guess about from which communities most students who might not meet this hurdle would likely come).  A full year in the classroom for student teaching is an appealing idea  — that comes with massive logistical challenges for students trying to get all of their coursework completed in just 4 years and might make undergraduate preparation unworkable for transfer students and community college graduates.  A state required performance assessment is an idea worth exploring, but with indications that the state is willing to simply farm this out of a major testing corporation at a cost of $300 out of pocket for students, there should be a robust debate on the instrument itself and the ethics of tying up another certification requirement with a corporate revenue stream.

Assuming these issues could be resolved favorably and equitably, there is another issue to consider.  Current conditions and proposed changes all appear aimed at trying to ensure that high caliber students and high caliber students only enter and make it through traditional teacher preparation.  That goal might be defensible, but what, exactly, is Trenton, or any other state capitol for that matter, doing to make teaching an attractive prospect for such high caliber students?  Chris Christie breaking his own pension reform obligations probably isn’t a big incentive.  Despite claims to the contrary, New Jersey teacher salaries are not comparable to other professionals with similar education levels.  In my 22 years in education and higher education, I have yet to meet a single teacher who thinks the distorting stakes attached to current high stakes examinations would be a job perk.  The callous havoc unleashed upon school districts under state control by Trenton appointed superintendents cannot make many of the state’s best and brightest want to work in urban schools.  While Governor Chris Christie has not yet traveled to the New Jersey Education Association annual meeting in Atlantic City to personally beat up a teacher on the boardwalk, he has yelled at several of the state’s teachers in person and accused them of using students “like drug mules” for a Project Democracy assignment near school elections.  All of this is certainly going to entice New Jersey’s best students to accrue debt and work hard to enter a profession held in such esteem by the highest offices in the state:

Governor Chris Christie, Raising Teachers' Public Esteem Again

Governor Chris Christie, Raising Teachers’ Public Esteem Again

The disconnect between allowing Relay “school” to operate while placing these requirements on traditional programs and leveling this much disrespect upon working teachers is staggering.  To a degree, those of us in academic teacher preparation have ourselves to blame for some of this.  As the first wave of the “failing schools narrative” took shape with the release of A Nation at Risk in 1983, numerous reports and proposals were released that focused upon “professionalizing” the field of teaching, conjuring a future where the teacher workforce more closely resembled higher status professions in career trajectory and in clinical preparation.  While the wholesale transformation never happened, the clinical preparation ideology is well entrenched within different teaching standards, accreditation organizations, and among no small share of teacher educators themselves, and David Labaree of Stanford University noted in the early nineties that this focus emphasized teaching as a technical, rational, activity and potentially shut out public input the way medical fields protect their specialized knowledge.  Indeed, by accepting wide swaths of the teaching as technical/rational viewpoint, teacher education has limited the role of powerful visions of teacher development that embrace all of teaching’s complexities and, as Ruth Vinz wrote, begin “to look behind the act, the formula, the answers to the causes, conditions, and contexts.”  We have, in fact, participated in portraying teaching as technical practice whose most important aspects are measurable, so it is little wonder that policy makers are hurling a runaway train through that opening.

However, given the promotion of Relay “Graduate School of Education” and given the continuous disrespect and degradation of working conditions heaped upon teachers, I cannot accept that Trenton is really trying to elevate the profession — in either a technical manner or not.  Taken together, the current and proposed policy environment seems more geared towards greatly decreasing the number of teachers who obtain certificates via traditional teacher preparation while opening the door for many, many more to enter teaching via what amounts to on the job training without ever having studied for the job in the first place.  Trenton, intentionally or not, is engineering a shortage of teachers with credentials from undergraduate study, which will result in more schools like Relay “Graduate School of Education” being “needed” to fill in the gap by certifying their own employees.  Those who survive the “churn and burn” for which charter schools are famous would have state issued credentials to move on to fully public schools.

Or perhaps they won’t.  I find it hard to believe that today’s education “reformers” really believe that teaching is a profession at all.  If they did, the pressure to make certain only top students enter university-based teacher preparation and then to make sure those students have rigorous preparation would be coupled with similar efforts to raise the attractiveness of teaching as a lifelong career.  Instead, reformers act as if they believe that teaching is something you do in your twenties when you are idealistic and want to “give something back”  — and then you move on to a “real career” in some other sector.  If your charter school bosses like you, perhaps they will make you a school principal before you are 30, or they will set you on a path to become Commissioner of Education for the state of New York when you are only 36 years old.  But mostly, they will thank you for a few years of service and see you off to your grown up life outside of education.  After all, reformers’ favorite schools — “no excuses” charters — manage to train their students into “little test taking machines” without very many career teachers, so why should reformers really value teachers who dedicate their entire adult lives to teaching?  That people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are dedicated and developing professionals who wish to remain in the classroom must seem like an amusing and quaint anachronism to them.

The teachers I know and work with are not laughing.

24 Comments

Filed under Cami Anderson, charter schools, Chris Christie, teacher learning, Testing

24 responses to “Does Anyone in Education Reform Care If Teaching is a Profession?

  1. Jooje

    Great piece.

    I recently perused the HR webpage at Drew University. (Yes, I’m always looking for jobs outside the classroom.). I was dismayed by their advertisement for a Director of the MAT program who is “dedicated to the professionalization of teaching.” I took this personally, as I have a Masters Degree in literature from Drew, which I use every single day to assist my students in learning how to read, analyze, research and write about literature. But I guess I – with a degree from their institution and a decade and a half of experience – am not truly a “professional.”
    Funny, I have watched Drew’s graduate program go down the tubes in the past decade, selling out their true Graduate programs in Arts & Sciences for the money-making Arts & Letters and MAT program. This I have on the authority of their own professors, who remain friends of mine.
    Who then is not truly the professional, Drew or me?
    They will surely not be receiving any more donations from this unprofessional educator.

  2. Anita l. Karr

    I taught for 40 years and graduated from
    Northwestern university with aBs in education
    Northeastern university with a MA speech and performing arts
    Graduate courses in science from Aurora university
    I supervise students from National Louis university in a variety of prestudent teaching and student teaching courses
    Is there a disconnect between what students are learning in university courses and the reality of teaching in elementary classrooms?

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  6. alan backman

    It is startling to me how someone like Professor Katz can spend an entire career in education without understanding the impact of the current reforms in education. On one hand, he questions the evidence for the common sense recommendation of the National Council on Teacher Quality that “holding those who make it in to more rigorous benchmarks will result in better learning in their eventual classrooms.” Yet, he is perfectly comfortable criticizing the Relay Graduate School of Education praised by the Secretary of Education Duncan as “an innovator” because it “has not a single professor or doctoral level instructor or researcher affiliated with it”. Where is his evidence that doctoral level instructors produce educators who are more effective teaching students ? Instead, his criticism of Relay seems like a thinly veiled polemic against the charter school movement with which Relay is closely associated.

    Keep in mind that successful charter schools like KIPP and Success have proven to be one of the first innovations in education in decades that have proven to effectively teach poor and minority children. Instead of praising such success, Professor Katz like other teachers union defenders offers every excuse in the book including “how the school has many fewer students with high needs due to poverty, language, or disabilities issues, how it suspends students at rates much higher than district schools, and how an African American male who enrolls in 5th grade has only a 40 percent chance of staying at the school until 12th grade.” Let’s consider each of these excuses individually:

    1. “fewer students with high needs” – Actually, the New York Times (which is no fan of educational reform) recent highlighted a report demonstrating that ” 53 percent of the charter school kindergartners with disabilities were still in the same schools four years later, compared with 49 percent of their counterparts in traditional schools … The results were similar among the overall population of students in the study, with 64 percent still at the same charter schools and 56 percent remaining in the same traditional schools.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/30/nyregion/more-special-needs-students-remain-at-charter-schools-report-finds.html?ref=education

    2. “how it suspends students at rates much higher than district schools” – While Professor Katz is correct with regard to Newark’s rate of suspension, he is cherry-picking his data. Education Week asked this exact question of suspension and expulsion rates between charters and traditional schools across a number of cities and across the nation. Newark was the exception. On a national level, charters suspend students only 4% of the time compared to traditional schools which suspend 6% of students. Likewise, charters expel only 0.1% of students compared to traditional schools which suspend twice the number of students.

    http://www.edweek.org/ew/section/infographics/charter-discipline-infographic.html

    3. “how an African American male who enrolls in 5th grade has only a 40 percent chance of staying at school” – Of all the excuses that critics of reform offer, this one is perhaps the most brazen. Katz faults charters for somehow being responsible for the dropout rate of African Americans even though you cannot legally drop out of school until you are 17 and most charters focus on elementary school. By contrast, Newark (the school system that Katz focuses on) is among the Abbot Districts which have received millions of dollars since the NJ court cases started in 1985 to equalize per pupil spending and yet fewer than 50% of these students in union-led schools graduate. In fact, these schools spend the most per student of any public school in the country (over $23,000 per student) and yet have little to show for it other than some well padded union pockets.

    http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2011/06/06/School-Budgets-The-Worst-Education-Money-Can-Buy

    Then Katz switches tacks to criticize reforms in Trenton intended to raise the educational strength of the teachers in our classrooms. “Current conditions and proposed changes all appear aimed at trying to ensure that high caliber students and high caliber students only enter and make it through traditional teacher preparation.” That doesn’t sound like such a bad idea, does it ? It is ironic that liberals who often give praise to the social policies of places like Finland seem curiously unwilling to follow their practices when it comes to teacher recruitment. Consider the comprehensive report of one of the world’s leading consulting firms, McKinsey & Co, “How the World’s Best Performing School Systems Come Out On Top”. “The top performing systems we studied recruit their teachers from the top third of each cohort graduate from their school system: the top 5 percent in South Korea, the top 10 percent in Finland and the top 30 percent in Singapore and Hong Kong …. The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce observes that, “We are now recruiting our teachers from the bottom third of high-school students going to college …. it is simply not possible for students to graduate with the skills they will need … unless their teachers have the knowledge and skills we want them to have.”

    http://www.mckinseyonsociety.com/downloads/reports/Education/Worlds_School_Systems_Final.pdf

    The response from Professor Katz essentially states that teachers are not being rewarded enough despite having summers off and gaining tenure which makes them almost impossible to terminate. Apparently part of his complaint is that Governor Christie “yelled at several of the state’s teachers in person”. How dare he ? Again, it seems ironic that efforts to address his claim that “New Jersey teacher salaries are not comparable to other professionals” are met with resistance by the very teachers unions that he defends. Consider the reforms instituted by Michelle Rhee in the District of Columbia including providing “Good teachers bonuses up to $25,000” According to a report of the National Bureau of Economic Research, “the DC school district shed many of its lowest performing teachers, kept its superstars and improved the quality of classroom instruction.”

    http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/washington-dc-teacher-evaluation-study-98464.html

    In the end, Katz resorts to denigrating charter school teachers and praising older, career teachers. “That people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are dedicated and developing professionals who wish to remain in the classroom must seem like an amusing and quaint anachronism to them.” No, Professor Katz, an “amusing and quaint anachronism” is something which may be unusual but is rarely harmful like a horse and carriage. By contrast, some purported educators like Professor Katz and his teacher union friends are fighting a rear-guard action against educational reform that would make the French Fifth Army proud. Katz ends with the epithet, “The teachers I know and work with are not laughing.” What he fails to understand is that the reform is not about the teachers. It is about the students and their families who have been forced to attend failing schools for decades. Enough is enough. Such is belief of not just conservatives but even the most liberal of leaders including Howard Dean who made the following statement after seeing first-hand the failure of our schools to educate their children.

    “Republicans and Democrats; whites, Hispanics and African Americans; school boards and politicians at every level—we’d all broken our promises of equal opportunity under the law to two generations of poor kids. Right there, I vowed that whatever we did, we could not continue to do what we had been doing for the previous four decades. There could be no more excuses – not poverty, not money, not union rights, not political deals on school boards. Everything with real, reasonable potential had to be tried, and everything had to change.”

    http://www.salon.com/2015/02/02/neoliberal_corporate_education_reform_howard_dean_on_teach_for_america_teachers_unions_and_the_politics_of_false_choices/

    • Mr. Backman,

      Thank you for your extensive comment and effort to engage the issues raised in this article. I must say, however, that most of your points and the evidence you cite in rebuttal are far off of the mark.

      I am concerned about the constant increase on requirements for traditional teacher preparation because they come with tradeoffs and challenges that appear unexamined by both the policy makers and the organizations that advocate them. Relay is then dropped into that environment with basically none of those – it is not that ONLY professors of education can possibly teach teachers (most university based programs will seek adjunct faculty and cooperating teachers among highly skilled teachers that the programs vet); it is that Relay none of the components of professional education that are deemed “important” by the same policy makers who have granted permission to Relay.

      1. The report you cite does not refute that the “no excuses” charter schools have many fewer students with disabilities. It was an important follow up to a report that found higher attrition rates at city charter schools but which compared different populations of disabled students. However, attrition and total numbers are simply different matters. If a school of 100 students has 15 students on IEPs and a charter school of 100 students has 10 students on IEPs, both schools can lose students at exactly the same rate and still have different student populations at the end. Most charter schools of the “no excuses” variety have fewer students on IEPs and many fewer students with high needs IEPs. There are many possible reasons including families with seriously disabled students or with students with behavioral disabilities self-selecting out of the lottery, but the numbers are not remotely the same.

      2. Nationally, charter schools are diverse sector representing a wide range of approaches and accountability. However, it is not “cherry picking” data to compare a specific school representing a specific approach within a specific district. I do not claim that all charter schools suspend students at high rates. I claim, accurately, that the attention grabbing “no excuses” schools tend to and that North Star particularly does. If I had tried to make a claim about the entire national charter school sector, your point would be a rebuttal. As it stands, however…

      3. You appear to misread the point again. This is not about charter schools in general. This is about North Star which is being held up as exceptionally awesome in order to justify granting it a “graduate school of education.” And I said absolutely nothing about “dropping out.” I said that students, and especially African American male students, leave the school at very high rates. This is important because North Star likes to brag that 100% of their seniors graduate – which is true. But which also ignores that odds of staying in the school to become a senior are not great. Most of those who leave go back to other schools.

      4. Again, if you want to recruit only high caliber students, you need a job on the other side that is attractive in general. You will also need large numbers of them. We have a teacher workforce in excess of 3 million. We certify roughly 200,000 new teachers each year, and we need most of them to make up for attrition in that workforce. While you are comparing to Finland, you should note that the political and social respect commanded by teaching there is far beyond our last 30 years of policy in the United States. I am not against recruiting more high caliber students. I am against assumptions that underlie the policy and against degrading the profession at the same time.

      5. Goodness, “summers off” and “impossible to terminate.” These are sadly boilerplate accusations by now, and ones made frequently using extremely out of date information. Increasing pay via bonuses largely resting on test scores is a policy likely to increase focus on teaching to tests rather than to children. There are a variety of ways to improve the professional status and compensation of teachers. Bounties for test scores and accusing teachers of using their students as “drug mules” are not among them.

      6. “Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey” jokes are terribly 1995. On a more serious note – you reference a common trope about reform being for children and not for teachers. However, the dichotomy is utterly false and misses an important point. Teaching is practiced by over 3 million teachers across the country. It is an endeavor undertaken for the welfare of 60 million school aged children. When reformers insist that teaching is not “about teachers” one has to wonder just who they think will carry out reforms if not the millions of people in closest contact with the children? Teachers teach for a variety of reasons, the most powerful among them being the intrinsic rewards of working with young people, but reformers for the past decade and a half have been diminishing those while offering little to make up for it. That is not a recipe for a workforce that is filled with a sense of purpose and it ends up hurting the very children reformers say they care about. That failure to see that is bipartisan does not change the reality. We’ve had a decade and half of high stakes test based accountability following the test and punish model of reform. It is a failure.

      • alan backman

        Professor Katz,

        I appreciate your point to bring a professional disposition to the discussion. However, I trust you would concede that your general tone and, in particular, your last paragraph suggest that you are biased towards teachers particular those with seniority who perhaps fear the competition for their once monopolistic roles. Can you not see the need for traditional schools and their union leaders to acknowledge their failure to teach poor children effectively for decades and the success of some charters in doing so ?

        1. Special Needs Students – I was very careful in almost each assertion I made to cite supporting data. I would therefore ask you to supply data supporting your point that more special needs children (as a percentage of student population) are initially placed in traditional schools. Even if this is the case, as you point out, “There are many possible reasons including families with seriously disabled students or with students with behavioral disabilities self-selecting out of the lottery.”

        2. Suspension and Expulsion – While I already conceded that your facts are accurate for one school system (Newark), this is an anomaly as the data I referenced illustrate. Moreover, I would ask you to recognize that while your focus is only on North Star, your peers in the teachers unions regularly make almost identical arguments about charters suspending students more generally which the data I provided accurately refute.

        3. African American Dropout Rate – Again, I recognize that you are focusing solely on North Star (with which I am admittedly less familiar), but your broader arguments about the dropout rate among minorities in particular at charters are often adopted by your liberal peers. This achievement gap was one of the primary reasons for the Abbot v. Burke court cases in the 1980’s and since. I still have not heard any response from you or your peers as to how you can justify the liberal experiment when these dollars appear to be spent without any accountability for the atrocious performance and drop-out rate particularly among minorities. For example, consider another Abbot District, Camden which cannot even identify where its money is being spent.

        http://danley.camden.rutgers.edu/2014/04/01/camden-chatter-where-does-the-money-go/

        4. Recruiting Teachers – If society rewards its teachers so poorly particularly so in your view at charters (which typically have longer hours, fewer pensions, and easier to terminate), then how would Teach for America be able to boast such a competitive program that only 15% of applicants are accepted even though they recruit from the top schools in America such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton ? Actually, my daughter is a senior at Princeton and I remember seeing TFA at various recruiting events. It’s funny, but I don’t remember seeing any recruiting by traditional schools. Perhaps I missed the NEA’s banner.

        5. Rewarding Teachers – Teaching is a rewarding profession for several reasons as you identify. To be clear, I have no issue with paying teachers more particularly those who effectively teach disadvantaged children. Moreover, I would agree to raise my own taxes in order to supplement poor districts ability to pay their teachers. But what you and other liberals must accept in order to proceed is that teachers are ultimately responsible for the education of their students. As Governor Dean explained, the traditional method of union-led teaching has offered nothing but failure for generations of poor children. Moreover, your attempts to excuse your poor performance on the poverty of your students is unworthy of the professional designation that you seek. Of course, the reforms may hurt some senior teachers who are more accustomed to a time when teachers unions enjoyed a monopoly and failure of poor children was acceptable. Those times have passed and it is now time for the teachers unions and their supporters such as yourselves to recognize the success that charters have demonstrated with poor minority children and try to emulate them … not denigrate them.

        6. Conclusion – In the end, you do not appear to refute the general argument but rather argue that traditional teachers are a large group and are not going anywhere. ” Teaching is practiced by over 3 million teachers across the country. It is an endeavor undertaken for the welfare of 60 million school aged children.” I do not disagree that eventually teachers unions will need to accept educational reforms in order for the benefit of the reforms to be applied to a large segment of the student population. But you do not appear to recognize that the interests of teachers and those of students sometimes diverge. Look no further than the former head of the teachers union, Al Shanker who said, “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.” Teacher union resistance, however, will grow increasingly difficult as charters grow in prominence. Charter schools have grown 47% since 2000 and now serve over 25% of the students in over 17 large school districts across the country.

        http://www.publiccharters.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/2014_Enrollment_Share_FINAL.pdf

        By rear guard action, I refer to the attitude of teachers unions to provide one excuse after another for their poor performance rather than accept these reforms. Look at the response of the Chancellor of the NY City school system in the recent article below, for example, which illustrates the incredible success of Success Academy:

        “In a visit last month to a public school where 4 percent of students passed last year’s math tests, and that shares a building with a Success school where 96 percent of the students passed, the city’s schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, said, “We would like to be at that percentage, but we keep all our kids from the day they walk into the building.” ”

        http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/07/nyregion/at-success-academy-charter-schools-polarizing-methods-and-superior-results.html?_r=0

        As an educator, do you not find this appalling that the top educator in NY City offers only excuses as to why a traditional school yields only 4 percent of students who pass a state math test while almost 100 percent pass at a Success Charter school serving the same population ? How many more poor students’ lives must be wasted in teacher union intransigence and self-interest ?

      • Mr. Backman,

        Of course I have a focus on teachers. Teachers are the ones doing the work of teaching, and their well being and ability to perform their work is central to the well being of and the ability of children to thrive in school. It is a false narrative to set the interests of teachers and students up as dichotomous and I am disinclined to entertain it seriously.

        1. You cited irrelevant data. The links to what I cited regarding North Star and Relay “GSE” stand, and I explained why your citation is not germane to my argument.

        2. I do not intend to argue with you arguments you have with other people outside the context of my article. My citation for the suspension rates at North Star Academy specifically and the “no excuses” charter sector is not refuted by a citation about the entire charter school sector in the country.

        3. Please see above. I am not my “liberal peers” vis-a-vis this article on this topic, so I am not inclined to respond to distractions from what I have actually written.

        4. I frankly have no idea what you intend to refute with this observation. TFA is a teeny tiny boutique program with an outsized influence among power brokers largely based upon the connections network it has developed over more than 2 decades, but their acceptance rate has literally nothing to do with the human capital supply line in teacher preparation.

        5. Teachers are obviously responsible for a great deal, but it takes a significant lack of understanding regarding contexts for learning to refuse to account for it. The findings of the 1997 Princeton study on the impact of poverty, for example, have never been refuted or even significantly disputed. The period of modern history where the achievement gap between minority students and whites closed the fastest was in the mid-1970s to mid-1980s when we were still pursuing policies of integration. The gains made during the period of test-and-punish accountability are negligible in comparison. Those of us calling for change of direction are looking at historical data for contexts where the problems we have today would improve.

        6. And yet, despite that single quote lobbed around about Mr. Shanker, his union, under his leadership, helped pioneer peer assistance and review programs that used experience teachers to both mentor new teachers and counsel out ineffective ones. The totality of someone with a career like Shanker’s is usually unable to be summed up in one quoted picked up and dropped into the conversation.

        Thank you for explaining your French Army metaphor. Still borderline obnoxiously insulting.

        You are wrong on two very important fronts. First, Success does not serve the “same population” as it follows many of the same policies that characterize the rest of the “no excuses” section. Yes, they get test results — at the expense of children who do not immediately conform to their hyper-regimented behavioral expectations and at the expense of a well rounded curriculum. At SA, like at many no excuses schools, the test is not the monitor of the curriculum — the test IS the curriculum and likely to the long term detriment of their students.

        You also do not understand what the test results mean or you would not say the students do not “pass” the test. The percentage of students who scored at proficient or highly proficient are quite low overall and too low at many schools. However, this is not what it means to “pass” or to do work at “grade level.” The tests, like Pearson’s other CCSS aligned exams, use reading passages that can be 2-3 years in reading complexity ABOVE the age of the students being tested. And on top of that the NYSED set the cut scores for proficiency levels using guidance that was matched to SAT scores that only 30% of the population achieve. Now that *may* be appropriate for an exam meant to “measure” “college readiness,” but nobody at NYSED bothered to discuss that in public and the endless parade of people saying the students “failed” the exams either do not understand the exams or are lying.

        Now it is absolutely true that readiness for higher education is unacceptably concentrated in specific communities in our country. Addressing this does not require that we treat test scores as an aim unto themselves (which SA does and, as I said, is likely to their students’ detriment), but it does require a serious look at the contexts for education and the extremely income segregated lives we live today. In the past 30 years, the RISI has been an upward trend with no end in sight, and yet despite this growing concentration of poverty and wealth in specific locales, our schools serving high poverty populations have generally held their ground on the only stable measure of achievement that we have — the NAEP. To have done so as we have consistently concentrated high levels of poverty into more and more narrowly confined zip codes, is actually a bit of a testament to how hard many of our teachers working with the urban poor have worked.

        It is my experience that people who discount that in order to set up and “greedy unions vs. the children’s future” narrative are far more interested in breaking the last large middle class unionized profession in the country than in helping kids.

  7. Mr. Backman, for all the time you have spent disputing what Dr. Katz has written, you have still failed to grasp any validity to what he is saying. I am not going to go toe to toe with every point you made but I will say, I am a very competent, long time public special education teacher. The problem I have with charters and their claims to serving those with special needs is the fact that just because a child has an IEP, does not mean they serve truly disadvantaged children. Children who have speech/OT/PT issues have IEP’s too. That does not mean they are learning disabled. What those children need are specialty therapists. If children had more than just those issues, they would be “dumped” into the traditional school they co-locate with, which is what has been done numerous times to my school. Charters pat themselves on the back for doing the bare minimum. If they had the students, that I have in my school, surprise, surprise, their test results would drop. They don’t want that at all. (Hence their reasoning for no backfilling.)

    Since you like post stories, here is one I wrote as a first person account of what it is like to be co-located with a charter;

    http://crooksandliars.com/2014/12/evil-we-must-fight-0

    I could easily post more from those who are higher than just a teacher, but I am not playing your game.

    When those make their agenda clear, such as privatizing our public schools, I will fight back. I am not “bad” nor “lazy.” I work extremely hard for my students, and I will not have you or your ilk, who are not even teachers tell me that they know better.

    Good day!

    • alan backman

      “I work extremely hard for my students, and I will not have you or your ilk, who are not even teachers tell me that they know better.” With all due respect, Ms. Rubinstein-Rosier, I believe this statement more than anything belies your role as a true educator. The fact that you are unwilling to attempt to learn from someone who is “not even a teacher” suggests a certain close-mindedness that one can only hope you do not convey to your students.

      Do you not see a certain “splitting of hairs” in your statement, “The problem I have with charters and their claims to serving those with special needs is the fact that just because a child has an IEP, does not mean they serve truly disadvantaged children.” Why is it so difficult for teachers such as yourselves to acknowledge the gains of charter schools for impoverished children particularly in light of decades of failure by many traditional schools.

      • If you are not in the classroom, you do NOT know what we all go through. That is why I said what I did. People who know nothing about education should not be telling me nor other teachers what and how to teach. Let me break this down, teachers are blamed for just about everything. We are on the bottom of the education totem pole. What we teach, the materials we use, the tests we give etc., is ALL handed down to US. You want to point fingers, do so to the powers who be who makes all of those decisions. I am tired of teachers being the scapegoats to a system not ruined by teachers, but by those powers who be and those with clear agendas influencing those powers who be.

        I will NOT acknowledge the gains charters have made for I know how they get them. You obviously have not read my article. I have and still am co-located with a charter for over 8 years in Harlem. EVERYDAY I have seen and still see how they treat their students. They are yelled at if they are crying because they were just dropped off by their father, they are yelled at if they take one minute too long in the bathroom, and they have been yelled at when they have in the past said “hi” to me. (I want to still say “hi” to those children but have chosen not to for I do not want any of them to have wrath brought onto to them, just because I am friendly.) I have over 8 years of stories including how their students have made fun of my special needs students while their teachers and even parents stood by, how one of their parents physically attacked a safety agent in front of my students because she was asked to move her car because she was blocking one of our buses from unloading, and let’s not forget them trying to kick out MY special needs school for our space and basically lying to the media and general public. So please! I can go on, but I have exerted already too much energy on you.

        Did you read this gem on how they get the scores that they do, that is after keep their desired students and weed out the ones who will lower their scores??? Is what is done to those students really worth it? Yes they can take tests, but what else? Is their social/emotional needs being met? Are they getting a well rounded education when test prep begins in the fall and crammed down those students throats? What is going to happen to these students when they go to college and this borderline abuse is no longer practiced then? Will they be able to keep up? Should I ask more questions? I can, I have plenty for you.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/07/nyregion/at-success-academy-charter-schools-polarizing-methods-and-superior-results.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

        AND here is another one that adds on to this one….

        http://dianeravitch.net/2015/04/07/my-conversation-with-a-success-academy-charter-teacher/

        AND this one is directed to you…

        http://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article9499466.html

        I may not be privileged like you, but I am well educated and I am very attuned to what is going on in NYC and nationally. You think it so easy, you come to my school and teach just one period. See how you feel after that.

  8. alan backman

    @ Daniel Katz

    I suspect that we have reached an impasse. Most of your comments focus exclusively on North Star for which I have already conceded is not a school with which I am familiar. By comparison, I was trying to address your points in a broader context which I understand is not your focus.

    I would address two points that you address which hopefully can bridge the gap between what each of us is trying to say to the other.

    1. Teachers – “Of course I have a focus on teachers.” With all due respect, Professor Katz, it explains a lot that you are “disinclined to entertain it [possible conflict between teachers interests and students interests] seriously.” I am sure that you and your fellow teachers work hard and are devoted to your craft. But the record of the last 50 years particularly in NJ where poor schools have been given significant funding as a result of the Abbott Cases strongly suggests that the issue is systemic and must be changed at the root.

    Allow me to offer a quick analogy. Prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germany was considered the pinnacle of manufacturing prowess in Eastern Europe. One of their crown jewels was the Trabant, a small car exported to the West. Like traditional teachers, I am sure that their workers were diligent and dedicated. After the Berlin Wall fell, however, it quickly became apparent that the Trabant was one of the worst cars ever built. In fact, they discovered that the process was actually subtracting value rather than adding it since the price of the Trabant was less than the sum its costs. Instead of resisting reform, however, they recognized that it was best to close these plants, modernize their thinking and learn from the West. Of course, teachers must be part of the process of reform. But the goal must be to guide teachers to techniques which have proven to be effective. As I understand, this is the purpose of Relay which is based on replicating the results of successful charters.

    2. Poverty – You appear to be a well regarded researcher in your field. It is important to me that you try to understand my point here. You refer (I believe) to the following study describing the effect of poverty on children – http://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/docs/07_02_03.pdf.
    I do not dispute that student performance is closely correlated with income. But this is not the point of reformers. Instead, the relevant question is whether two sub-groups within an a similar socio-economic cohort would learn at different rates when educated under the traditional paradigm vs. the charter paradigm ? A number of well regarded studies (in one case commissioned by the Department of Education) have found that the charter model does provide a more effective model for poor children.

    Mathematica Policy Research – “we found that study charter schools
    serving more low income or low achieving students had statistically significant positive effects on math test scores”

    http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/~/media/publications/PDFs/education/charter_school_impacts.pdf

    Stanford’s CREDO Study – “On net, the findings are good news for charter schools: Across the 41 cities studied, students in charter schools learned significantly more than their peers attending traditional public schools – 40 more days worth of learning in math, and 28 more in reading.”

    http://www.usnews.com/opinion/knowledge-bank/2015/03/19/new-study-shows-charter-schools-making-a-difference-in-cities

    Do you even allow for the possibility that these charter schools have devised a model that is more effective for poor children than the one that you have served for most of your career ? You refer to “contexts for education and the extremely income segregated lives we live today”. Again, this is a distraction. These students do reside in segregated areas. But again, this is as true for charters as is for traditional schools. As an example. at KIPP, “more than 88 percent of KIPP students are eligible for the federal free or reduced price meals program [ a proxy for poverty] and 95 percent are African American or Latino”. You may ascribe their results to ” hyper-regimented behavioral expectations and at the expense of a well rounded curriculum.” But they get results. And this is more than can be said of traditional schools serving the nation’s poor for many, many years. Given the profound tragedy in allowing these children to sadly repeat the cycle of poverty of their parents, is it not worth a bit more rigid atmosphere and perhaps more focused curriculum to give these students a chance at getting an education and escaping poverty ? I question how anyone could deny these students that opportunity and still call themselves an educator.

    • Mr Backman:

      I reject the teacher versus student dichotomy not because there can never be tensions between teacher and student interests, but because you set up the dichotomy so intensely in your opening reply. Do you realize you invoked teacher unions negatively SIX TIMES in one response? It is a common tactic to respond to concerns about teachers and teaching conditions as some kind of attack on students’ interests, but it is a manufactured issue. To focus upon teachers and their working and professional learning conditions is to also focus upon students because they are tightly woven together. The reason I am not inclined to take the dichotomy seriously is because I have found it entirely overblown in the political arena, and, in this conversation, you set it up that way.

      Your analogy to Iron Curtain manufacturing is amusing to me in no small part because the current policies of education accountability remind me of nothing less than Soviet style plan and command economics. Reformers set absurd and unrealistic targets, use appalling ill-conceived metrics for accountability, and then plug all of that into punitive consequences, and then feign shock when they find people distorting the curriculum to meet the targets or just outright cheating.

      Your citation of the two studies is interesting to me because it demonstrates that there is a difference between statistical significance and actually interesting results. You are correct that the Mathematica study reported that finding. You may have missed that one paragraph below that quote they said: ” We found no statistically significant relationships between achievement impacts and the charter schools’ policy environment, including the extent of its decision-making autonomy, the type of authorizer and how the authorizer held the school accountable, and whether it was
      operated by a private organization”. I find that intensely interesting because it suggests that it is possible to get gains in student achievement with the same population and to treat the children like human beings, a bit of a far cry from the student management tactics that were discussed in the NY Times article you linked to previously and which are common among the “no excuses” charter schools. So while they may have found some impact, it does not appear linked to how the school’s policy environment is set up.

      In the case of the CREDO study, I am afraid you are making a mistake in being impressed with results that are statistically significant but not interesting from a policy perspective. When the “months gained” are analyzed for effect size, you end up with extremely modest gains. Among subsidized lunch recipients, you are talking about English and math effects of .024 and .033. This is essentially moving a student, for example, from 50th to 51st percentile. A gain. One that shows up as statistically significant, but hardly something to hang policy upon. Keep in mind this is not just a study of “no excuses” charter schools, but of schools in urban areas, so it may be possible to get big test score gains out of places like KIPP and Success but very little out of other schools.

      Which raises another problem. You say such “no excuses” schools “get results.” What they get are test scores which is a form of result, but it is not a worthwhile result if it is the aim of the education program itself rather than the byproduct of an excellent education. Reformers and charter school entrepreneurs like to talk as if test scores are the sine qua non of what is holding children back in their education and then ruthlessly pursue the test scores themselves as an object. THIS IS NOT THE ADVANTAGE THAT THEIR WEALTHY AGE PEERS IN THE SUBURBS HAVE. Yes, these students will “need” higher test scores to break barriers, but those scores will only break those barriers if they represent an education with substance and depth. The practices described in that NY Times piece do not represent that. They do not represent the social capital developed by peers in the suburbs either. The “no excuses” brand pursues test scores as an end unto themselves, and that is going to be a really big surprise to their fans when children turned into “little test taking machines” are flummoxed by tasks requiring initiative, independence, and creativity. In fact, research shows that teachers with very high value added as measured by tests often have students who lag significantly by measures of critical thinking.

      And even if these schools do defy my expectations of them and graduate creative leaders, they are not scalable beyond very limited points. Have you ever wondered why KIPP has never asked for permission to take over an entire school system? They cannot because the no excuses charters rely upon the public system to take the students who they push out. This might be defensible if such schools were accompanied by policies that recognized the impacts of concentrating higher percentages of disadvantaged students into fully public schools by increasing services available to them. But that simply never happens. Schools networks like KIPP and Success and Uncommon depend upon zoned schools to take the students they won’t accommodate and then have the nerve to denigrate the work of those schools. Until they step up and admit the limited scalabilty of what they do and advocate for radically increasing resources for the schools where their practices concentrate more students below the FPL, more students with high needs IEPs, and more students who are LEP, then I will continue to consider them parasitic and detrimental to overall health of the school system as a whole.

      • alan backman

        Professor Katz,

        1. Teachers vs Students – It sounds like you acknowledge that teacher and student interests can diverge but simply consider such differences “overblown”. May I suggest that this is then a question of degree ?

        2. Results vs. Methods – “education accountability remind me of nothing less than Soviet style plan and command economics.” I am surprised by this statement. Nothing in what I have written suggest that there is one way that students ought to be taught. I am still learning about the Common Core, for example, but I am wary for the reason you cited. But there is a difference between centralized methods and and comparable results. From a consumer’s point of view, the charter movement rejects “Soviet style plan and command economics” since the idea is that families have a choice of schools. This diversity, however, is skew to the question of metrics which can be compared across schools. Two different mechanics may fix may car using different methods. There is little need to enforce conformity. The relevant question, though, is does the car after repair operate correctly and what is the cost ?

        3. Mathematica – This is really the same confusion as the prior point. “” We found no statistically significant relationships between achievement impacts and the charter schools’ policy environment, including the extent of its decision-making autonomy, the type of authorizer and how the authorizer held the school accountable, and whether it was
        operated by a private organization” This statement in no way defends traditional schools. It simply states that there is more than one way to skin a cat. Again, I have no issue with your statement that, “it is possible to get gains in student achievement with the same population and to treat the children like human beings”. But the key is to DEMONSTRATE THE GAINS IN STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT. With few exceptions, traditional schools have failed to demonstrate these gains for decades !! And yet, they claim a monopoly in their right to attempt to do so or simply reject the metrics that would allow comparison altogether. That is unacceptable.

        4. CREDO – Your bias is showing Professor. Any statistician would tell you that the variance of the difference in the distribution between any two samples is likely to be small as the sample size increases. In other words, the fact that we see measurable improvement in both the CREDO study AND the Mathematica study (which you did not retort) over a large number of charters and traditional schools suggest that there is something meaningful in the charter movement for poor children. Moreover, this improvement is likely to increase as the self-selecting nature of charters propogates successful charters such as KIPP and Success.

        4. Tests – You set up a straw-man argument here. ” Reformers and charter school entrepreneurs like to talk as if test scores are the sine qua non of what is holding children back in their education and then ruthlessly pursue the test scores themselves as an object.” Test scores are obviously not the object for reformers. Rather, they are the best metric that one can observe across schools to determine the effectiveness of the education. Of course, they could be improved. How many non-standardized tests administered by teachers on a regular basis perfectly measure the extent to which the students have understood the concepts ? But the perfect is not the enemy of the good. In a previous post, you seemed to offer some affinity for the NAEP, a standardized test that has the pre-dates much of the current argument over testing. Even in the NAEP, fewer than 40% of 12th graders are proficient in math or reading. Your point in a prior post that these scores have not declined further is weak praise indeed. And any attempt to inflate these scores by declaring proficiency an unreasonable goal is similarly distasteful. Whether you use NAEP, Regents or other tests, the results point in a similar direction as that described in the Mathematica and CREDO reports; Charters are providing one of the first innovations in decades demonstrated to effectively teach poor children. Instead of the skills measured in tests, you discuss other desirable skills – “initiative, independence, and creativity.” But Professor Katz, this is a false alternative since traditional schools have shown no ability to offer these skills. To return to the car analogy, your statement akin to the defense someone would offer when confronted with the fact that their Minivan was slower than their friend’s Corvette – “But a Ferrari is still faster than your Corvette”. While true, this is irrelevant since the suggested alternative is not available. Instead, the alternative for many poor students is a failing local school where often nearly half of students will not even graduate.

        5. Scalability – With all due respect, Professor, your point here regarding scalability sounds like the last defense before giving up the Alamo. “Have you ever wondered why KIPP has never asked for permission to take over an entire school system?” Actually, charters are beginning to take over entire school systems such as New Orleans and, more recently, York, PA. While the results have been mixed so far, you will likely see increasing use of charters both in all-charter districts and mixed districts. While the educational establishment is still very strong, I would suggest that they acknowledge that the charter growth is unlikely to be restrained. When even one of the most liberal Presidents in years supports the growth of charters, Republicans control 31 States and a number of Democratic Governors like Cuomo and Raimondo are likewise supportive of charters, it is likely that the trend will continue. I would encourage educational leaders such as yourself to accept this and start to negotiate adoption of these reforms in exchange for measures that would smooth the transition particularly for older teachers. For example, I would support resources for training or early retirement be given to teachers who may have difficulty adapting to the new demands. As an analogy, Trade Adjustment Assistance provides federal funds for workers displaced by international trade agreements. Teachers unions who ignore this lesson may face the same fate as the UAW or United Steelworkers who have much less clout to negotiate this type of assistance since private sector unions are now only 6% of workers. In other words, I’d suggest that the educational establishment negotiate for peace now if not for the benefit of their students then at least for their own self preservation.

      • 1. You may certainly suggest it is a “question of degree”. The degree to which you set up teacher unions — which are made up of teachers — as oppositional to the welfare of students is a degree far in excess of reality.

        2. The reason I made this comparison specifically in regards to test based accountability is because when you make a specific outcome incentivized the degree we have done with tests you also make incentives for either cheating or distorting production. The no excuses charter schools have a terrible habit of mistaking test scores for educational outcomes in and of themselves.

        3. I did not say it defends the fully public schools. I said it complicates the finding because you’ve asked me to entertain that the urban charter schools with the high test scores have found some formula — when the Mathematica study did not find a connection with the policy environment and achievement. The extremely high levels of control exerted by those schools may be entirely unnecessary.

        Also, you are wrong about fully public schools showing no “gains for decades.” NAEP is our consistent measure and it has showed small to modest gains in that time frame in all subgroups. It showed much better gains for minority subgroups when we pursued integration — in fact, those gains dwarfed anything we’ve seen in the age of test-based accountability.

        4. There is no bias in demonstrating that trimming your reporting of the CREDO findings to the ones that SOUND most impressive are made far less impressive when we look at the effect sizes of the reported gains. Certainly, it complicates the policy proposals we can support from the data. By the way, the 2010 Mathematica study only looked at 36 schools although with very good methodology, so you might want to not include it in a discussion of a “large” number of schools.

        5. Not a strawman. An observation based upon the practices of the specific sector of charter schools at the center of this discussion. If test scores were not their object, they would aim at providing a broadly based, high quality education that emphasizes the kind of critical thinking and interconnected knowledge that can result in high test scores. They would use the massive resources offered to them by donor and investment networks to provide a fully enriched learning experience that is offered to their age peers in wealthy suburbs. There might need to be some additive focus that helps certain urban students make up for low availability of home advantages enjoyed by suburban students, but within a focus of a fully rounded education that would actually prepare students for further study.

        Instead, they emphasize extremely rigid behavioral conformity and test preparation, dedicating huge amount of time and resources to that end. If the test is supposed to be a reflection of accomplishment rather than the accomplishment itself, then that would not be the case. So no strawman at all.

        You should investigate how NAEP defines proficient before lamenting “only” a 40% proficiency level. You should also note that NAEP is essentially a “no stakes” examination, so its results are far more useful for looking at achievement given that nobody has an incentive to distort the curriculum to meet it — unlike the other exams that are the basis for evaluations in the CREDO and Mathematica studies.

        5. I don’t defend the Alamo. I am demonstrating an essential truth of this SPECIFIC charter school segment. They are not scalable. Period. Not charters as a whole. Not, unwisely, turning entire school districts over to a variety of different types of charters. Specifically, the no excuses charters that you are praising for getting “results” and those results being test scores. They cannot be scaled because their practices entirely depend on their ability to drive away large portions of the families who sought them out in the first place. The only way to justify them is if you simultaneously commit to pouring Marshall Plan resources into zoned schools that end up with higher concentrations of children with even greater needs.

        Notably, no one on the reform side advocates that.

    • booklady

      Mr Backman,
      I’m trying to grasp the point of the Trabant car example based on visiting Russia in 1992 and hearing a former Intourist guide say that under Soviet rule, there was a common saying “You pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.” If East Germans sold the car to European buyers at less than sum cost of parts, isn’t that similar to the payments per exported car that Japanese trade ministry provided in the 80s? With admittedly better results.

      NEA wouldn’t sponsor a booth at Princeton career fair because individual school districts have hiring responsibility.

  9. alan backman

    @Ms. Rubinstein-Rosier,

    You are obviously very emotionally vested in your viewpoint, but I suggest that this may cloud your judgment.

    1. Right to Affect Education Policies – “If you are not in the classroom, you do NOT know what we all go through.” I do concede that many teachers have a very difficult job. And I do know a bit what you are going through despite being what you refer to as “privileged”. I used to teach SAT preparation for Stanley Kaplan (heaven forfend !). To help poor children, I taught pro bono in Jersey City. Declaring that teachers are the only people who may affect education policies neglects the rights of families as consumers of education services. It used to very expensive to buy a phone when the only provider was AT&T. Ma Bell did not want to give up their monopoly, but the marketplace was drastically improved when multiple providers were permitted to serve consumers.

    2. Discipline – I truly sympathize with the difficulties of your special needs kids and apologize for the poor behavior of the charter students in regard to these children. In part, this sounds like a spacing issue not all that different from the need to separate kindergarteners from much older children in large schools. But while you may reject the strict discipline taught by your nearby charter, do you not allow for the possibility that many poor children do not receive the structure necessary for an effective education thereby necessitating the increased discipline ? Over 70% of black children, for example, are born to single mothers. Numerous studies have demonstrated that students of single parents are more likely to have drug problems, commit crime and drop out of school. Isn’t it better that the schools provide structure than that these children receive no structure at all ?

    3. Article – I do not doubt that you can point to numerous articles attempting to defend the indefensible position of the educational establishment which resists reforms. Unfortunately, many of these articles are full of inaccuracies and misguided statements including the article from the Charlotte Observer:

    a. ““the charter school movement [is] quickly becoming a backdoor for corporate profit.” – Over 88% of charters are non-profit. See link. The next sentence just as deceptive. “Wall Street invests heavily in the charter movement.” Hedge funds which give money to charters like Success are doing so as charitable donations not profit seeking investments.
    http://www.charterschoolcenter.org/fastfact/number-schools-operated-nonprofit-charter-management-organizations-outpacing-profit-educati

    b. “charters are outperformed by traditional schools the majority of the time.” This is untrue at least for poor children. See CREDO Study below.
    http://www.usnews.com/opinion/knowledge-bank/2015/03/19/new-study-shows-charter-schools-making-a-difference-in-cities

    c. “Poor children are struggling, not because their schools are failing but because they come to school with all the well-documented handicaps that poverty imposes – poor prenatal care, developmental delays, hunger, illness, homelessness, emotional and mental illnesses, and so on.”
    This is perhaps the key point in which the educational establishment and reformers simply talk across each other. I tried to explain the same point very carefully in my reply to Katz but apparently did not communicate effectively. Neither I nor any advocate of reform would like disagree with the more difficult circumstances experienced by poor children or the resulting effect this has on their educational results. The question is what can be done WITHIN the cohort of poor children which can improve their education ? Let me use the automobile analogy since this will at least reduce the obvious emotions involved. Newer cars unquestionably perform better than older cars in various metrics including fuel mileage. But within the group of older cars, there are different types of maintenance that can improve their performance. For example, there are synthetic lubricants that are specially made for high mileage cars which can extend their lives and improve performance. Likewise, there are methods of teaching that can perhaps prove more effective for poor children. That’s all I am saying. Blaming poverty for the performance of poor children is at best circular and at worst abdicates a school’s responsibility for effectively teaching all children. Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. If you make excuses for poor children failing school, you perpetuate the cycle of poverty. Do you really expect that the children of these poor students will be any richer or fare any better in school ? By definition, that is insane.

    • Unlike you, I have better things to do with my time then to continually go back and forth with you so I will keep it as brief as I can and then I am done with you.
      Congrats, I stand corrected, you have very limited experience with teaching.
      As for discipline, I assure you public school teachers create structure in their classrooms. I do that everyday as do others. There is a difference between classroom management and severe “no excuse” discipline. No child has ever cried, wet their pants, or was humiliated, in my classroom or in any classroom of any of those in my vast teacher circle.
      As for the articles I shared, if it makes you sleep better at night, then continue believing as you do. If I never saw ALL the things that I have seen, with my own eyes, not word of mouth, maybe I would be doubtful too. Alas that is not the case.
      Yes many charters are non-profit, however they are still double dipping getting money from the state and private donations. Please you are a smart man, what do charitable donations mean to their taxes?
      As for your last paragraph, I feel you miss the point of poverty when it comes to education. Because our students are poor, and may or may not have their own baggage when entering our schools, it does not mean we give up. It means we work harder in a poorly funded system doing the best we can. Believe what you want, but I am in the trenches everyday. I see what goes on. I know what I do and what SO many other teachers do everyday with what they have. I also know what is being done in most charters. If you essentially feel that child abuse is the way to go to get higher test scores, then I have nothing more to say to you.
      DONE!

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