Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Profit and the Pauper

I'm no fan of big government but, nevertheless, turning the student loan program into a rapacious, for-profit enterprise is such a disgrace...

“Sallie revolutionized the industry,” says Representative Miller, and he  doesn’t mean that as a compliment. It imposed fees and penalties that added  costs when students were already having trouble repaying loans — while  increasing Sallie’s profits. It bought its own collection agency. It lobbied  to make it nearly impossible for borrowers to escape their student debt. (It  was aided along the way by occasional reports of the wealthy reneging on their  student debt, thus saddling the taxpayer with the bill.)
On one level, what Sallie Mae did under Mr. Lord’s leadership was  consistent with the times. The dotcom bubble was in full flower. The only  thing Americans seemed to care about was whether a company’s stock price was  rising. And Sallie’s was certainly doing that — more than 1,400 percent  between 1995 and 2006. But in our obsession with the market, we had forgotten  that this stock’s performance resulted in no small part from Sallie Mae — like  many of its competitors — making money on the backs of struggling college  graduates. It was a little like the credit card business: the “best” customers  aren’t the ones who pay off their monthly charges on time; they’re the ones  who can’t. For the student loan industry, the best customers are the students  who take on more debt than they can handle to get through school. What’s been  lost is the idea that student loans are a service with benefits that transcend  the financial.
Meanwhile, Mr. Lord, who stepped down as C.E.O. in 2006 and is currently  chairman, was getting rich; between 1999 and 2004, his pay package was worth  $235 million, most of it in stock options. In April, Sallie Mae agreed to be  bought by a private equity consortium for $26 billion. When the deal closes,  as it is expected to in the fall, Mr. Lord will walk off with an additional  $135 million.


July 29, 2007
Student Loans | Viewpoint

The Profit and the Pauper

By JOE NOCERA <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/columns/josephnocera/?inline=nyt-per>
www.nytimes.com/2007/07/29/education/edlife/nocera.html <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/29/education/edlife/nocera.html?pagewanted=print>

I GRADUATED from college about $8,000 in debt.

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Details of merit pay

Speaking of performance/merit pay, my friend James Forman has thrown out a challenge on his blog, asking for details.  If anyone wants to reply to me, I'll share it...
Can We Get Details on Your Merit  Pay Plan?

July 30th, 2007

http://extracredit.wordpress.com/2007/07/30/can-we-get-details-on-your-merit-pay-plan/ <http://extracredit.wordpress.com/2007/07/30/can-we-get-details-on-your-merit-pay-plan/>
 I’ve said <http://extracredit.wordpress.com/2007/02/07/teacher-quality-and-merit-pay/>  that I’m drawn to the  idea of merit pay, but the details seem really hard to get right, as the  Working Group on Teacher Quality has recently argued (pdf <http://www.talentedteachers.org/pubs/successful_performance_pay_july_2007.pdf> ). Maybe so hard that it isn’t  worth it. I’m not sure, and I don’t want to give up on something that seems, in the abstract, to have common sense going for it. But most of what I hear from the gung-ho merit pay crowd avoids the tough questions and instead simply asserts that people who who support merit pay, like Bloomberg <http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2007Jul25/0,4670,UrbanLeagueBloomberg,00.html>  (and  maybe Obama) are courageous, and those who oppose it are pandering and stuck in liberal orthodoxy. But this seems like an example of an area where the details really  matter <http://www.quickanded.com/2007/02/uniting-differences.html> .
So my question for Whitney Tilson <http://edreform.blogspot.com/2007/07/must-read-mayor-bloomberg-addresses.html> , Joe Williams <http://www.dfer.org/2007/07/obama_breath_of.php#more> ,  Andy Rotherham <http://www.eduwonk.com/2007/07/dont-go-there-he-went-there.html> , Edspresso <http://www.edspresso.com/2007/07/changing_the_race_without_join.htm>   etc., is . . . if you were a non-pandering reform-oriented superintendent,  what exactly would your merit pay proposal be?  Specifically, here’s 5 questions to start with:
1) Would you propose using value-added assessment, and what  would you do if you were in one of the overwhelming majority of districts that  don’t have the data systems to support that?
2) Do you endorse what Aspire schools do, and include  school-wide measures of achievement and parent satisfaction surveys? Or would  you base the merit pay solely on test scores tied to an individual teacher’s  classroom?
3) How much weight, if any, would you give to the judgment of  principals above and beyond standardized measures? Would there be any appeal  process for teachers who felt they had been judged unfairly?
4) What about the areas that aren’t routinely tested? Are  those teachers eligible for merit pay, and if so, who decides and on what  basis?
5) Finally, if we accept as we must, that doing this right  will cost more money (not the pay itself, but the investment in the assessment  tools), how much should we be willing to pay?
This last one matters a lot since smart,  not-stuck-in-liberal-orthodoxy school leaders like Emily Lawson <http://extracredit.wordpress.com/2007/02/07/teacher-quality-and-merit-pay/> , who are actually  trying to implement merit pay, have argued that good merit pay plans are 1)  costly to implement, and 2) would rank relatively low on her list of priorities for improving teacher quality.

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Miller Shoots for September

An update on NCLB from the National Alliance for Public Charters Schools' web site:

Miller Shoots for September

30 Jul 2007

Leading House Dem previews NCLB strategy...

In a National Press Club speech <http://www.house.gov/apps/list/speech/edlabor_dem/RelJul30NCLBSpeech.html>   this morning, House Ed and Labor Chair George Miller laid down markers for  NCLB reauthorization, saying he intends to get a bill out of committee and  approved on the floor in September.

The "c" word wasn't mentioned this  morning but there was a lot to like for charter folks: use of growth models in  Adequate Yearly Progress; repeated emphasis on replicating and scaling  effective schools (which is a key component of the Alliance's proposed <http://www.publiccharters.org/UserFiles/File/NCLB%20Statement.pdf>   reforms; and -- stop the presses – "performance pay" for teachers, using some  kind of student achievement measures in the mix.

Clearly the bill is  not quite soup at this point. We've heard that committee negotiations have hit  some rocks over whether to use "multiple measures" for AYP (the  tough-accountability folks retreating not an inch from reading 'n math, the  flexibility flock wanting feelgood stuff). The tension was evident in Miller's  talk. He wants "additional valid and reliable measures to assess student  learning and school performance more fairly, comprehensively, and accurately"  but also made clear that reading and math will have pride of place. (Or, as he  put it: if a kid can't read and do math but you claim he's nevertheless great  in astrophysics, you'd better check your astrophysics standards. Nice line.)  


UPDATE: Ranking Member McKeon's Statement <http://republicans.edlabor.house.gov/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=222>

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Charter school ruling could cost city millions

From the Center for Education Reform newswire, an important court ruling in Maryland:

EXTRA, EXTRA - COURT SAYS CHARTERS ENTITLED TO EQUAL  FUNDING. This just in <http://www.edreform.com/dsp_getfile.cfm?emailclick&amp;fd=19795&amp;massemailid=967&amp;filepath=http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bal-te.md.charter31jul31,0,4500284.story> from Maryland's highest court:  charter schools are entitled to receive per-pupil funds from districts equal  to what districts spend on their own public school students. The 7-2 decision  was the result of an appeal of the Maryland State Board of Education's May  2005 decision, which ordered districts to follow the law's "commensurate"  funding language, by dividing the amount of money in a district equally over  the total public school student body and paying those per-pupil allotments -  minus 2 percent for administration - out to charter schools for each pupil  they educate. That's the right and fair way to do it, said every court that  subsequently heard the appeal, which districts had filed to try to get out of  the State Board's directive to support charter schools equally. The resulting  funding for Baltimore city charter schools will be close to $10,000 per pupil,  up almost a few thousand dollars from their current district-set formula.  
Add this case to the long list of states' highest courts  ruling in favor of charter school legality and equality...  

It's an outrage that public school students who attend one type of public school (a charter) are shortchanged to such a huge degree in so many states:

Last academic year, the school system's budget contained the  equivalent of more than $13,000 per child for all of its public schools,  though not all of that was directly spent on children. The city's charter  schools received $5,859 per child in cash and the rest in services.

Under a formula the city school board approved in May, the  charters will receive $8,415 per child in cash in the coming school year but  will assume employee benefits, a major responsibility that the system  previously covered.
Charter school ruling could cost city millions
Maryland's highest court tells system to equalize funding, offer cash in lieu of services
By Sara Neufeld | Sun reporter  July 31, 2007  

The Baltimore school system could be forced to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars - and eventually millions - to its charter schools under a ruling issued yesterday by the state's highest court.   In a 7-2 decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the right of charter schools to receive as much money per pupil as regular public schools spend on their students. When the new academic year begins next month, Baltimore will have 22 charter schools serving about 5,400 children, more than in the rest of the state combined.

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Charter school accountability

Another great case study of how charter schools are so much more accountable than regular public schools (from the Center for Education Reform newswire):

ACCOUNTABILITY IN ACTION.  University Preparatory Charter High School has been in all of the California  newspapers lately - for all of the wrong reasons. On July 8, the San  Francisco Chronicle <http://www.edreform.com/dsp_getfile.cfm?emailclick&amp;fd=19795&amp;massemailid=967&amp;filepath=http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi%3ff=/c/a/2007/07/08/UPREP.TMP%26tsp=1> highlighted the East Oakland charter  school, its impressive test scores, and its founder and principal Isaac Haqq,  who has allegedly been doctoring those test scores and illegally preparing  students for standardized tests. The story created a firestorm in the  community and set off a series of pieces in the local newspapers detailing the  principal's transgressions. But rather than become yet another public school  that has failed our kids, the performance accountability promised by charter  contracts took its course. Within three days of the San Francisco  Chronicle story, the California Charter Schools Association suspended the  school's membership in the association and called for the school to take  action against Haqq. The next day, Haqq resigned and the following Monday, the  school had a new director in place. There are currently 122 other public  schools accused of similar grade doctoring in California. And what has  happened there? Nothing. While the story of University Prep is about one bad  apple, it's also a story about the accountability of the charter school  movement. When there is a problem, it is fixed. As Gary Larson of the  California Charter Schools Association told Newswire, "It will likely  take months if not years to uncover what is going wrong at these other  schools, but in the charter school system, we were able to shine the light on  what was wrong in the school and hold that individual accountable - in less  than five days."

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Another comment on Clarence Thomas

My friend Robert Azeke gave me permission to share his  thoughts on the Clarence Thomas discussion:


Great exchange and dialogue   here on Justice Thomas!

As a  black person looking back to that time,  I  considered his  appointment a great travesty for Black America and cruel manipulation  by the Bush Sr. Administration.    

But with some  time and maturity, I think his pariah status in the black community is  even more troubling.   We should create a bigger tent in  our community that  embraces Jessie, Rev Al, Obama, Oprah, Condi, and  even Clarence.   We are a diverse race with different styles,  opinions and viewpoints.  That is a strength.  Weakness is  excluding important people from the table "because he is not black   enough".

Regarding his   judicial judgements on affirmative  action:
I am   pro-affirmative action and have personally benefited tremendously from  it and there is no doubt that Clarence is a hypocrite on this  issue.

But so were the  founding fathers (George Washington, Thomas  Jefferson and the rest) on the slavery vs. Declaration of  Independence  issue.  But that hypocrisy does not diminish the  Declaration; in  fact, it enhances it, because the DOI was an elevation of principle over the  temporal, fleeting realities of the present.

I believe   that Clarence knows 1) that he is black and 2)  that he benefited  from  Affirmative Action   But, it is not unreasonable for a  black person to say that it was good for me,  but I am not sure  it is best for the country today and forever.   In fact it may be  more noble than we know since he may be  wittingly or unwittingly  insuring that segregation never comes back to haunt America -- just like the  slaveowners planted the seeds for the slow, but inevitable march toward the  end of the  slavery.

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Making a Hard-Life Story Open a Door to College

This looks like a great program.  It's exactly what KIPP and other top schools do for their kids to help them get into top prep schools and colleges.

Antoine is a B student at struggling Crossland High, in Prince George’s County, Md., where most of the 1,700 students are black and more than a third are living in poverty.  He is a youth leader in his church, but he is not an academic star. He  is not one of the handful of students from high schools like his whose numbers attract the attention of diversity-minded college admissions officials. The other seniors with him at Howard had B and C averages.

But his high school’s selection of him for the College Summit program, which teams up with both high schools and colleges, substantially increases his odds. The workshops, which 1,500 low-income seniors across the country will attend this summer, are part of College Summit’s effort to extend the college-going culture beyond the middle  class.
The colleges that play host to the workshops and are eager for more low-income applicants get a first look at the portfolios of the students.
These are the  “better-than-their-numbers students,” said J. B. Schramm, the  Harvard <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/h/harvard_university/index.html?inline=nyt-org>   Divinity School graduate who founded College Summit 14 years ago. They have talent and academic potential not revealed by their SAT  scores and grades, Mr. Schramm said. Seventy-nine percent of  students who go through the workshops enroll in college, he said, while   nationally fewer than 50 percent of low-income students do.  
With the application process itself one of the biggest obstacles, he said, many students do not even apply to college. Their parents cannot help them navigate the process because for the most part, like Antoine’s parents, they did not go to college  themselves.


Making a Hard-Life Story Open a Door to  College

By SARA RIMER <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/r/sara_rimer/index.html?inline=nyt-per>  
Published: July 27, 2007

WASHINGTON — Antoine Tate, 16, was sitting in  a courtyard at Howard University in the heat of a July morning. He was holding a pen, and staring at the blank page on the step beneath him.

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By 2009, Mayor's Control Of Schools Could End

The battle  to maintain strong mayoral control is among the next major battles we will  have to fight in NYC.  The forces of the status quo hate mayoral control because: a) it creates accountability and thus makes genuine reform more likely; and b) as Joe Williams points out below, politicians love the diffusion of power (when there's no mayoral  control) because it opens up all sorts of avenues for patronage.

Lawmakers and interest groups are crafting plans to  weaken or end mayoral control of the city's public schools once Mayor Bloomberg leaves office, as voter support for shared power grows.

The City Council, the principals union,  and the teachers union have all convened working groups charged with proposing what to do when City Hall's control expires in 2009. While  saying no decision has been reached, some members of the working groups say they are inclined either to balance the mayor's control with independent oversight or squash it altogether.  The  opposition to  mayoral control was seconded by a Quinnipiac poll released yesterday showing 51% of voters support balancing the mayor's power with an independent school board.  As Mr. Bloomberg took over the schools in 2002, support for mayoral control was split, with 45% of voters approving and 43% opposing.

Supporters of mayoral control of the schools cautioned that polls should not dictate policy.

"You have to remember that 51% of New Yorkers  thought the Yankees should have traded A-Rod last year," the executive director of the lobbying group Democrats for Education Reform, Joseph  Williams, said. "Making  tough decisions sometimes forces you to lose votes in the popularity contests,  but it is part and parcel of mayoral  control."

Mr. Williams challenged some of the opposition as coming from politicians who stand to gain from a diffusion of power.


By 2009, Mayor's Control Of Schools Could  End
BY ELIZABETH GREEN -  Staff Reporter of the Sun
July 27, 2007
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/59336  <BLOCKED::BLOCKED::">http://www.nysun.com/article/59336> <http://www.nysun.com/article/59336>   

Lawmakers and interest groups are crafting plans to weaken or end mayoral control of the city's public schools once Mayor Bloomberg leaves office as voter support for shared power grows.

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Senators Clinton & Obama at the Urban League

More follow-up from Bloomberg's awesome speech to the National Urban League.   A friend who is an Eagle Academy board member
(one of two all-male  schools to open in NYC in 2004; see: http://www.insideschools.org/fs/school_profile.php?id=1295 <http://www.insideschools.org/fs/school_profile.php?id=1295>  ) and member of 100 Black Men attended the meeting, where Senators Clinton and Obama spoke afterward.  Here are his comments:

I am here in St. Louis at the private meeting for National Urban League leadership from around the country that Mayor Bloomberg spoke at.  The Mayor was excellent and was very well received.  At the presidential forum, Hillary once again wiped the  floor with Barack before a 98% Black audience. She showed more  courage on choice than he did. That is  the consensus of everyone  in the room.   Barack is making me a Hilary supporter.  I am trying  to find a reason to support him, but as I told one his top guys yesterday, he is making it hard.

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Watts Riot

A great article in Forbes today about Steve Barr and Green  Dot:

Barr's formula--small schools, good teachers  and efficient use of  money--has produced results: Green Dot spends  $8,000 per pupil in public funds  and graduates more than 90% of its  students. Two-thirds go on to four-year  colleges. In contrast, the Los  Angeles Unified School District, with 700,000  kids, spends $12,000 per  student but graduates fewer than 50%, according to  state data. (The  district says it graduates 65% and attributes the difference  to  transfers). While the district doesn't know how many go to college, only   20% of graduates are eligible to apply to state  universities.
Green Dot's schools all have at most 525  students, vs. an average of 3,600  in L.A.'s public high schools.  Teachers can keep track of their kids. Everyone  gets college  preparatory courses and wears uniforms of collared shirts tucked  into  khaki pants. Parent involvement is mandatory. A student who fails to show   up more than once can expect a call at home from the principal or a  visit from  staff.
Green Dot sends 94 cents of each  dollar of public funds to its schools to  be spent at the principal's  discretion. The other six cents are kicked back to  Green Dot  headquarters for administration. From his downtown office Barr looks   directly at the LAUSD's headquarters, home to 4,500  workers.
"What the $#%@ are people doing in there?" he  asks, pointing at the black  glass tower that looms over his  balcony.

Poor Duffy (the old-guard head of the LA teachers  union) still doesn't know  what's hitting him.  First he says this nonsense:

"What we have is as good as what Steve   Barr has," says UTLA President A.J. Duffy of the union's own reform  proposals.  

And then this truth:

"Steve's on fire," concedes UTLA's Duffy.   "He does have a model that appears to  work."


Watts  Riot
Peter C. Beller 07.30.07, 5:07 PM ET

Los Angeles -
On a sunny Los Angeles  afternoon in early May, Steve Barr gathered with parents, teachers and other  supporters across the street from Alain Locke Senior High School in the Watts  neighborhood. He proudly declared to the news media that the 2,800-student  school, one of the state's worst, was seceding from the Los Angeles Unified  School District.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Foundations Find Benefits in Facing Up to Failures

Kudos to the foundations that are finally taking this much needed step (notice how many of the failure examples relate to education reform...).  My experience observing and dealing directly with foundations for nearly 20 years is that far too many of them are filled with clueless, ideological boobs (both from the left and the right, but more often the former) who have no idea how human beings and the real world really work, with the result that their grants do little good.  An important way to combat this is to have rigorous, independent evaluations and make them public.  (Let me be clear that this is not a blanket condemnation of all foundations -- I've also met many great people doing great work at them, but in many cases (like in much of Africa) people die if a foundation's program is poorly conceived or implemented, so my standards are high.  For a great book on the world's very mixed efforts to help Third World countries, I highly recommend The Bottom Billion.)

 Among the reports on a coffee table in the Carnegie Corporation’s reception  area is one on the foundation’s efforts to help Zimbabwe overhaul its  Constitution and government.
It gets straight to the point: “This is the anatomy of a grant that  failed.”
Just a few years ago, it would have been astonishing for a foundation,  particularly one as traditional as Carnegie, to publicize a failure. Today,  though, many of the nation’s largest foundations regard disclosing and  analyzing their failures as bordering on a moral obligation.
“There’s an increasing recognition among foundation leaders that not to be  public about failures is essentially indefensible,” said Phil Buchanan, the  executive director of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, which advises  foundations. “If something didn’t work, it is incumbent upon you to make sure  others don’t make the same mistake.”


Foundations Find Benefits in Facing Up to Failures
Peter DaSilva for The New York Times
A failed program of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation sought to reduce poverty in Bay Area neighborhoods like West Oakland, Calif.

By STEPHANIE STROM <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/stephanie_strom/index.html?inline=nyt-per>
Published: July 26, 2007

Among the reports on a coffee table in the Carnegie Corporation’s reception area is one on the foundation’s efforts to help Zimbabwe overhaul its Constitution and government.

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First-Year Report on New York City Charter Schools Finds Positive Impact on Reading and Math

A nice report on how charter schools are kicking butt in NYC:

The students in grades 3 though 8 gain  about 3.8 scale score points (0.09 standard  deviations) in math and about 1.6 scale score points (0.04  standard deviations) in reading for  every year spent in a charter school. A student can expect to improve by about  12 percent of a ³performance level² in math and about 3.5 percent of a  ³performance level² in reading for every year in a charter school in New York  City. These gains are in addition to whatever improvements the student would  have been expected to make in a traditional public school.

First-Year Report on New York City Charter Schools Finds Positive Impact on Reading and Math

CAMBRIDGE A study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research for the New York City Charter Schools Evaluation Project, which was released today, finds that students who attend charter schools have higher academic achievement in reading and math in grades 3 through 8. The students in grades 3 though 8 gain about 3.8 scale score points (0.09 standard deviations) in math and about 1.6 scale score points (0.04 standard deviations) in reading for every year spent in a charter school. A student can expect to improve by about 12 percent of a ³performance level² in math and about 3.5 percent of a ³performance level² in reading for every year in a charter school in New York City. These gains are in addition to whatever improvements the student would have been expected to make in a traditional public school. However, since this is the first report of the independent, multi-year study -- known as the New York City Charter Schools Evaluation Project -- the results in this report should be viewed with caution, because they may change when more years of data are incorporated into the study.

At this time, there are not enough charter school applicants enrolled in high school to draw conclusions based on tests taken at that level.

By capitalizing on the random lotteries that charter schools hold to determine which students they enroll, the researchers were able to make ³apples-to-apples² comparisons of students in charter schools and traditional public schools. The study compared charter school applicants who were lotteried-in and subsequently enrolled in a charter school in the City versus applicants who were lotteried-out and stayed in the traditional public schools.

The study also looked at the characteristics of the student population served by charter schools. Charter school applicants are fairly typical of the neighborhoods where the schools are located, but New York City charter schools are located in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Thus, more than 90 percent of charter school applicants qualify for free or reduced-price lunch --they are 17.5 percent more likely to do so than the average student in the New York City public schools. The researchers further found that charter schools in New York City disproportionately attract black applicants: 63.9 percent of applicants are black, while 32 percent of New York City's students are black. Because New York City¹s charter schools draw from a population that is overwhelmingly black and Hispanic, any charter school where black students make up a disproportionately large share of applicants will automatically be a school where Hispanic students make up a disproportionately small share of applicants.

Charter schools enroll a proportionate share of special education students, once account is taken of the fact that their student bodies are weighted toward the early grades. The researchers were unable to draw any conclusions about English Language Learners, and are cautious about special education, because they found so many differences in the way that charter schools and traditional public schools recorded their numbers.

The majority of New York City charter schools have adopted one or more policies that are unusual in the traditional public schools--for instance, a long school year (190 days or more), a long school day (8 hours or more), Saturday school, and school uniforms. The researchers did not yet have sufficient data to ascertain the association between most such policies and charter schools' effects on achievement, but they note that a long school year is statistically associated with positive effects on achievement.

This report covers 42 of New York City¹s 47 charter schools and evaluates data on test results from 2000-1 through 2005-6. However, achievement results for only 35 of the schools are reflected in the report because not all charter schools had students enrolled in the test-taking grades of 3 through 12 as of 2005-6. The data in the report were derived from the New York City Department of Education, participating City charter schools, and the U.S. Census of Population and Housing.

A copy of ³New York City¹s Charter Schools Overal1 Report,² the 2007 report of the New York City¹s Charter School Evaluation Project, can be found online at the NBER website at www.nber.org/~schools/charterschoolseval <www.nber.org/~schools/charterschoolseval> .

The New York City¹s Charter Schools Evaluation Project is funded by the Institute for Education Sciences, the research arm of the U. S. Department of Education, and will report on achievement through the 2009-10 school year. The authors of this year's report are Caroline M. Hoxby and Sonali Murarka, both of the Economics of Education Program at the NBER.

The NBER is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization based in Cambridge, Massachusetts dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community.


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Joe Williams on Steve Barr

Joe Williams on DFER's blog on Steve Barr, whom I just saw this evening  (Steve's on DFER's National Advisory Board):

July 24, 2007

NY Times Looks At Green Dot 'Maverick' Steve Barr

The Newspaper of Record's Sam Dillon spent  some time with Steve Barr <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/24/education/24charter.html?ref=education> , who happens to be a member of the National  Advisory Board for Democrats for Education Reform. In keeping with the  newspaper's high standards, the phrase "pig  fucker”   <http://www.laweekly.com/news/news/the-secret-of-his-success/15159/>   does not appear anywhere in the piece. The set-up graphs:
In just seven years, Mr. Barr’s Green Dot Public Schools organization has  founded 10 charter high schools and has won approval to open 10 more. Now,  in his most aggressive challenge to the public school system, he is fighting  to seize control of Locke Senior High, a gang-ridden school in Watts known  as one of the city’s worst. A 15-year-old girl was killed by gunfire there  in 2005.

     In the process, Mr. Barr has fomented a teachers revolt against the Los  Angeles Unified School District. He has driven a wedge through the city’s  teachers union by    
     welcoming organized labor — in contrast to other charter  operators — and signing a contract with an upstart union. And he has  mobilized thousands of black and
     Hispanic parents to demand better  schools.

Educators and policy makers from Sacramento to Washington are watching  closely because many believe Green Dot’s audacious tactics have the  potential to strengthen and expand the charter school movement  nationwide.

I like Steve a lot. When I wrote about  his parents union last year  <http://www.educationsector.org/usr_doc/Escape_From_LA.pdf> I have to admit I enjoyed the time I spend  talking shop with him in Los Angeles. When he is on panels at conferences they  are never boring. He is a walking, talking soundbite machine who can walk the  walk and who shares our collective desire to find a new heart and soul for the  Democratic Party. But I diagree with Sam's storyline about Green Dot as a  charter school force. One of the things I admire about Steve is that he  understands the power dynamic that can allow him to be a PUBLIC SCHOOL FORCE  by using the charter school mechanism to clear the way.

That has always been what I liked about the idea of charter schools. It's  about envelope-pushing, myth-busting, and bar-setting. But if we aren't using  charter schools to push foot-dragging union leaders and bureaucrats to shift  their focus to providing a quality education within the public school system,  I'm not sure why we put so much behind charters. What I mean is that if all we  end up with from the charter school movement is a bunch of charter schools and  school systems which continue to operate with their heads in the sand, I'm not  sure any of us should feel particularly proud.

We all know that school districts aren't exactly going out and looking for  ways to serve kids better. Sure, they say they do when they go on strategic  planning retreats and they claim victory for the kids each time they hammer  out a new contract extension for school labor groups, but everyone reading  this blog knows that kind of talk is total bullshit.
Which is why I like Steve Barr's idea of the hostile takeover of crappy  public schools. Don't wait for permission, just take the damned thing -- in  the name of the public.
It is exciting stuff indeed.
Oh, and by the way, if you will be in the New York City area this Friday  evening, feel free to join DFER and Steve Barr at a special happy hour in  Chelsea <http://www.dfer.org/events/greendot> .
UPDATE: Alexander Russo blogs  on Barr here <http://www.thisweekineducation.com/> . (And if meeting Steve Barr isn't a big enough draw for you  on Friday, come and meet Alexander, who has already RSVP'd for the drink  fest.)
UPDATE II: At EdWize, Leo Casey seems to think that the  right-wing is apoplectic  <http://edwize.org/right-wing-apoplexy> about the waves Barr is causing. Could be, but  the charter movement has always been more diverse in its thinking than some  folks have believed. (Just like the unions, by the way.)
UPDATE III: Regarding Leo's post, if you read the Clint Bolick quote in the  story that he is referencing and click on the Checker Finn Gadfly item that  Leo links to, it is nearly impossible to conclude that anyone on the right is  losing sleep over this. It won't stop Leo from wishing, but it just isn't  there from the evidence he supplies.
UPDATE IV: Eduwonk (also a DFER governing board member) says when it is a  battle between producers and consumers, bet on the consumers over  the long run <http://www.eduwonk.com/2007/07/more-la.html> .

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Friday, July 27, 2007


STOP THE PRESSES!!!!  This is a must-read!
This speech by Mayor Bloomberg is absolutely brilliant and spot on.  The fact that he's a Democrat (regardless of what he officially calls himself) serves to further underscore how utterly lame the Democratic presidential contenders' speeches were to the NEA a couple of weeks ago.  Oh, how I long for the day when one of them has the guts -- and wisdom -- to give a speech on education like this one!
You're probably scratching your head, saying: "What do you mean by wisdom?  Wouldn't it be political suicide for any Democrat to say even 10% of this to the NEA?"
This is indeed true for Hillary -- she's the prohibitive favorite and doesn't need to take any risks, at least given today's polls.  Unless something significant changes, she can put it on cruise control, coast to the nomination and then run to the center.  Thus, if I were her political advisor, I'd have told her to give the exact speech to the NEA that she did -- pander like crazy and only stick a toe in the water on reform (kudos for briefly mentioning her support of charter schools) and then quickly pull it out (caveats on no financial harm to the school district).
But I don't know what the other candidates are thinking.  The only strategy I think will beat Hillary is to use jujitsu to take advantage of her greatest strength -- but also greatest weakness: that she (and her husband) own the machinery of the Democratic Party and are unlikely to rock the boat.  (In fairness, I think Hillary is more of a centrist and reformer than people give her credit for, but it will be very hard for her to shake the perception that she's owned by special interests in the party.)
So the other candidates, facing the strong likelihood that Hillary's gonna steamroll them, need to take some risks and show that they're different and have courage by tackling some entrenched interests in their own party.  What better issue to do this than education?  More and more people understand that the system needs reform and who could argue with the ideas Mayor Bloomberg highlights below?  Who's going to criticize raising teacher salaries 43% if it's accompanied by accountability and reform?  Who (other than hard-core unionistas) thinks teachers shouldn't be evaluated, like everyone else in the country?  And who would oppose using these evaluations when making tenure, promotion or pay decisions?  And who thinks it should be nearly impossible to fire an ineffective teacher?
There's even a model in place for the candidates seeking to beat Hillary: her husband!  He was an obscure former governor of Arkansas running 5th in the polls, but was able to position himself as a New Democrat in part by embracing welfare reform and rode it all the way to the White House.
The parallels between welfare reform then and education reform now are striking: in both cases, they are emormous governmental systems that low-income minorities are especially dependent on -- but are increasingly screwed by.  In both cases, the systems initially worked reasonably well, but over time morphed into ever larger, unwieldy, unaccountable, bureaucratic and politicized monstrosities, with powerful, well-organized, well-funded, deeply entrenched interest groups defending the status quo. 
Both issues are owned by the Democratic Party, but as the systems' failures became more widespread and well known, Republicans became more and more vocal in calling for reform -- and began to gain real political mileage from it.  Meanwhile, the entrenched interests wove themselves deeply into the Democratic Party and turned the party into the primary defender of the increasing indefensible status quo, even as the systems did increasing harm to the most loyal -- and vulnerable -- constituents of the party.
Republicans calling for reform were dismissed as having bad ideas (sometimes true), caring about the issue only for political gain rather than really caring about poor people/kids (also sometimes true) and/or attacking poor people or teachers, while Democrats who embraced reform were villified and called pawns of Republicans.
But one day, a very smart Democratic politician came along and said that embracing welfare reform -- in some ways, stealing the Republicans' best ideas -- was both the right thing to do and the politically smart thing to do -- both for himself and the party.  Think about it -- who gets credit for welfare reform: Bill Clinton or the Republicans who were pounding on this issue long before he was?  And note that the Democratic Party is no longer losing voters by being typecast as the party defender welfare queens.
So when will one of the Democratic contenders wake up and smell the coffee?  I'm not holding my breath based on what I heard from the NEA convention -- maybe we'll have to wait another four or eight years -- but the optimist in me says it's still very early so stay tuned...



The following is the text of Mayor Bloomberg’s speech as prepared. Please check against delivery.


Good afternoon.  Thank you, Marc, for the invitation to join you here today.  And I also want to thank Darwin Davis, president of the New York Urban League, for all his good work back home.  His predecessor, Dennis Walcott, is my Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development, and back when I was first running for Mayor in 2001, I met Dennis on the campaign trail and I borrowed – Dennis might say ‘stole’ – his New York Urban League pin. And I’ve been wearing it ever since.


It’s an honor to be here to help kick-off the National Urban League’s annual conference.  The Urban League has been going strong for 96 years, which makes it two years younger than my mother. And almost as energetic. But for all the energy and vitality of this organization, and for all the people who live in cities in this country, and for all the votes that we cast on Election Day, you would think that the federal government would zero in on issues the League concerns itself with, and take bold action. You would think.


 But when it comes to the most important issues that nearly all cities face – crime, housing, poverty, the environment – Washington is dragging its feet – and in some cases, walking backwards. That’s why, more and more cities – many of them Urban League cities – have been taking the lead on these national issues, and nowhere is that more true than in the case of education.


Next year is the 25th Anniversary of the publication of ‘A Nation at Risk,’ the landmark study that showed how American students were falling behind students in other nations – and the consequences we would face if it continued. Well, it did continue – and it got worse.  Much worse. Today, our schools are further behind than they were 25 years ago –even though we’ve doubled education spending over the last several decades. If you did that with your 401(K) or your pension fund, you’d work for the rest of your life and die broke!


In many cities, including New York, the money was squandered by politicians and special interests who protected their own jobs first, and worried about classroom learning second.  A generation of students paid a terrible price, and let’s face facts:  No group of children paid more than African-Americans.


Today, black and Latino 12th graders – who should be reading college catalogs – are reading at the same level as white 8th graders. And a shockingly high percentage of black and Latino 4th graders – who should be reading Harry Potter – cannot even read a simple children’s book.  This is not only not acceptable – it’s shameful.  Whitney Young Jr. must be turning over in his grave!


Here we are in the greatest country on earth – home of the best universities in the world.  Is this really the best we can do?  No way.  We’re better than that.  But let me tell you something. Let me tell you exactly who’s at fault: Us.  That’s right.  We are the ones to blame. And here’s why: Politicians have pandered to us by selling us on the idea that all we need is more money and smaller classes – and we’ve bought it.  They’ve given us cheap platitudes and slogans instead of real solutions – and we’ve bought it. Whoever’s in power, they’ve pointed fingers at the other party when nothing improves – and we have bought it!


If we want to truly improve the education our children receive, and fulfill the promise of the Civil Rights movement, we have to stand up and tell them: ‘No more!’ No more pandering to special interests. No more fear of the tough issues. And no more excuses for failure. We’re not buying it!


That’s the approach we’ve taken in New York – and when I came into office in 2002, we certainly had our work cut out for us.  The school system – with 1.1 million students – was the ultimate case study in mismanagement:  Everyone had power, but no one was in charge.  And so the system was defined by paralysis, patronage, and corruption. We began our reforms by getting to the root of the problem:  Winning control of the school system and abolishing the broken Board of Education. We re-directed money away from the bureaucracy directly into the classroom. And we significantly cut the cost of school construction.


We expanded the school week by 150 minutes – which is about 15 extra days a year. We put parent coordinators in every school, so that parents would always have someone to turn to, 24-7 – instead of turning to the politicians, who could care less if you’re not one of their supporters. We improved safety and discipline, which is a hallmark of any good school – and we’ve enforced the ban on electronic devices like PDAs, iPods, and cell phones. You come to school to learn, not to play games or send text messages!


To encourage more students to start preparing for college, we’ve begun paying the fee for all 10th and 11th graders to take the PSAT, which has allowed us to substantially increase the number of black and Latino students who take the test. We’ve doubled the number of charter schools.  And we’ve broken up large failing high schools into smaller schools, where students get more individual attention.


Graduation rates have gone from less than 40% at the old, large high schools, to more than 70% at the new small high schools. And across New York City, over the past four years, graduation rates have gone up about 20%. Test scores in grades 3-8 have gone up 10 points in reading, and more than 20 points in Math – and improvements among black and Latino kids in Math have been at double the rate of white and Asian kids.


We still have a long way to go, but we’re finally making real progress – and we’re not letting up. We’re continuing to tackle the tough challenges and address the historic inequities – and let me give you two quick examples.


First, for decades, school funding formulas have favored some schools over others – because of politics, of course. We’re putting an end to that, by revamping the formula so that it’s based on the number of children who attend a school and their diverse needs.  That’s just basic fairness!  No one can argue with the principle of it, but there was no shortage of politicians and special interests who called for more study, and endless delay.  But our children can’t afford to wait – and in New York City, we’re not going to wait.


Second, we’ve expanded Advanced Placement courses and gifted and talented programs to communities that never had them.  The absence of these enrichment programs from schools serving black and Latino students was a perfect example of the soft bigotry of low expectations.


We have to expect the best from the best students – of every race.


And we have to expect success from every single student – and hold schools and teachers accountable for helping them achieve it. Accountability, like funding fairness, is a basic idea that everyone agrees with – in principle.  But once again, when the rubber hits the road, too many politicians fall off the wagon.


Let me give you an example. For decades, New York City tolerated the practice of social promotion – where students are promoted even if they haven’t learned what they need to succeed in the next grade.  This doomed children to fall further and further behind.  So we said, ‘No more!’ We announced that we would enforce minimum standards, and to help struggling students, we would offer extra-help after school and on Saturdays.


Parents know that setting expectations – and enforcing the rules – is essential.  It’s no different in our schools. And yet most elected officials, union leaders, and even some editorial boards fought us tooth and nail.  They wanted more delays and studies – anything but action.


But we didn’t bend to politics – that’s not leadership.  And when the new promotion standards proved successful, and more students met them, the establishment came around.


That experience shows how real change requires the guts – and the independence – to challenge the entrenched interests. And the fact is, the only way we’re going to change the current situation is if we’re willing to take on a subject that too many politicians are afraid of:  Finding ways to hold not only students, but also teachers and principals accountable for classroom learning and getting the most effective teachers and principals into the schools that need them most.


All the research says that the single most important factor in determining a child’s classroom success is – not class size or funding levels – but teacher effectiveness. Studies have shown that if our most effective teachers taught in our lowest performing schools, we could close the achievement gap. But instead, we have a situation where the highest performing students get the most effective teachers and principals – while the most needy students are stuck with the least effective ones. And I don’t have to tell you, it’s black and Latino students who pay the heaviest price.


Getting effective teachers into the schools that need them most is the next frontier of education reform – one that we’ve been afraid to face for too long. And, I believe, it is the great unfinished business of the work that Thurgood Marshall and so many others began all those years ago.  How do we do it?  Well, I think it begins with a very simple idea: Treat teachers like the professionals they are. Let me explain what I mean by that.


I think we would all agree that in all of our cities, most teachers and principals do amazing work – and that they make a big difference. I went to public schools growing up, and I remember certain teachers – like Mr. Lally, my high school history teacher – really making the subject come alive.


The teachers I meet across New York City are smart. Hard-working, inspiring, and they’re passionate about the kids. We need a system that keeps these special individuals in city schools.  Respects their hard work and unleashes their talents where their talents are needed most.


Many of you in this room work or have worked in the private sector.  You know how to attract and retain the best people.  Make them feel respected. And get the most out of them. You pay them more. You give them incentives to take on the toughest challenges and succeed. And you hold them accountable for results.  And those who don’t perform up to standard – you let go.  That’s Management 101, and it’s the way we treat all professionals – except in our schools.


In most school systems, teachers experience low pay, lockstep pay scales, no recognition of talent, no incentives for success and no accountability for failure. This kind of employment system didn’t work in the Soviet Union, and it’s time for us to recognize that it’s not working in our schools.


In New York City, we’ve worked to confront this reality – and to ensure there is an effective teacher in every classroom – by taking several important steps toward treating teachers and principals like the professionals they are.


First, we’ve raised teacher salaries by 43%, which helps us attract the best and brightest.  Now, senior teachers can make more than $100,000. Second, to drive the most effective teachers to the schools that need them most, we negotiated with the teachers union to create a lead teacher program, which pays some of our best teachers an extra $10,000 to teach in our lowest performing schools. We’re offering an even more generous incentive program to principals: $25,000 to take over low performing schools. And third, we’re also offering a $15,000 signing bonus to Math and Science teachers – because more and more Math and Science majors are opting for high-paying private sector jobs, leaving the schools with severe shortages in these critical subjects.


These three financial incentives – combined with all of our other reforms – have helped us to dramatically increase the number of job applicants, and our retention rates. Critics of bonuses say that educators aren’t in it for the money. That’s true.  But we can’t expect them to make career decisions based purely on altruism.  They have families to feed and kids to put through college!


So let’s stop pretending that offering teachers financial incentives somehow diminishes their motives.  It’s ridiculous! We should be offering teachers and principals incentives not only to take the toughest assignments, and to fill special needs, but also to get the best possible results from their students.


In New York, the contract we just negotiated and signed with the principals union offers all principals up to a $25,000 bonus for meeting performance targets. We’d love to give a similar deal to teachers – but so far, we have not been able to convince the union to accept it.


I understand their concerns – it’s not easy to evaluate teacher effectiveness, and standardized tests don’t present the full picture. But if we put sophisticated data on student achievement together with principal and peer evaluations, there’s no reason why we can’t create a fair review process.


In New York, we’re building the most sophisticated achievement data system in the nation, which will allow us to focus on how well individual students are learning. And it will allow us to begin grading every single New York City public school – all 1,400 of them – from A to F, beginning this fall.  That means that parents will be able to see how their child’s school is doing – and compare it others.


Principals and teachers will be trained to use the data to identify each student’s needs and to improve outcomes. Information technology has revolutionized the private sector, but the public sector is just starting to catch up. We ought to remember the words of the management leader who said, In God we trust.  Everyone else bring data.


I was happy to hear that Senator Obama recently became the first Democratic presidential candidate to offer at least modest support for the idea of bonus pay for teachers. Right now, we pay teachers solely based on longevity and education credits – even though the evidence shows that education credits have precious little to do with actual student learning.  Just think about it: Why should a good teacher with a Master’s degree whose students make huge strides earn less than a mediocre teacher with a Ph.D whose students make no progress? That makes no sense!


Focusing on how well students are actually learning will also allow us to take two other critical steps: reforming the tenure process, which right now is almost automatic. And reforming the process by which teachers can be fired, which right now is almost impossible.


When a teacher is up for tenure, too often the questions are: Did he come to work every day? Did he cover the curriculum?  Do people like him?  But the one question that really matters isn’t asked: Are his students learning as much as they should? Most times, the answer is ‘yes.’  But if the answer is no, that teacher should not receive tenure.


And when a tenured teacher’s students are not learning, principals, after a reasonable appeals process, should have the authority to let that teacher go. Right now, that appeals process is anything but reasonable.  It’s a nightmare.  That’s why many principals don’t even bother with it – and once again, it’s our children who suffer.


In New York City, we’ve begun taking the first steps toward tenure reform by requiring principals to evaluate each tenure-track teacher, so that tenure is earned by those who deserve it, and not granted as a right to those who don’t. But to inject some sanity into the process of firing bad teachers and to pay bonuses to highly effective teachers, we need buy-in from the unions.  That hasn’t been easy in New York – or anywhere else.  And I’ll be honest: I’m not sure we’re going to get there without support from the federal government.


So I’d like to offer you an idea, and I hope you’ll bring it back to your communities: When ‘No Child Left Behind’ comes up for re-authorization, there will be many things that need fixing – including its lack of funding. Politicians love to talk about this lack of funding – because it’s easy.  But they don’t want to talk about the hard part: How do we ensure that any new money actually results in higher student achievement?


I believe that as part of the next version of NCLB, the federal government should commit to a significant increase in new federal funding, including for higher teacher salaries – but cities and states could only receive it if they began implementing the reforms I’ve outlined today:  Bonus pay for effective teachers and principals, and for those that serve in the toughest schools.  As well as tenure reform and accountability systems, including a streamlined process for firing ineffective teachers.


If we do that, in a few short years, we could have the most effective teachers working in the schools that need them most.  More high-quality math and science teachers.  More of the best and brightest working in City schools – and fewer failing teachers hurting our children’s future. Then, we can stop talking about closing the achievement gap between races, and actually close it.


We can stop talking about our students catching up to the rest of the world, and actually have them catch up. And we can stop talking about the equal opportunity of the Civil Rights movement, and actually make it a reality. We can do all of this – if all of you help take the lead.


Marc, you and all your affiliates represent the vanguard of change.  The status quo is just not acceptable. There are no second class kids – why should there be second class schools?!  Why should we go along with a system that is helping to relegate our children to failure, or jail, or death?  We have to say ‘No more!’ – and we have to start giving our children the opportunity and support that is theirs by right.


The last generation fought and died for them to have that right – but it’s up to us to deliver it. Let’s get to work.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Blacks rethink school choice

What a travesty, after all the suffering of the Little Rock Nine and countless others like them to integrate our schools, that we have allowed our public schools -- especially those "serving" low-income, minority children -- to be so horrible that black leaders in South Carolina and elsewhere are yearning for the days of segregation?!  

 Sen. Darrell Jackson remembers his days at racially segregated Atlas Road  Elementary School as good days.

 He knew the teachers. He knew the principal down the hall and the school  superintendent, too.

 Just as importantly, Jackson said, the educators knew him. They knew his  siblings and his family. They also understood his academic potential.
“Many, many African-Americans are longing for those days again,” said  Jackson, pastor of the 10,000-member Bible Way Church of Atlas Road just  outside the southeast Columbia city limits.
Jackson, 50, is among a handful of black lawmakers who say they are  concerned that S.C. public schools are failing to educate poor and minority  children. Their concern could push the state’s years-long debate over school  choice and vouchers or tax credits for private school tuition over the finish  line in 2008.
Standing in the well of the Senate during a debate in May, Jackson, long  considered a public school defender, said he could see the day coming when he  would support school choice.
It would be a historic alliance — traditionally pro-public school black  Democrats, such as Jackson, joining with school choice advocates, largely  white Republicans — to allow parents to use public money to send their  children to better-performing public or private schools.


Blacks rethink school choice
Pastors, lawmakers say S.C. poorly educates many pupils
rburris@thestate.com <mailto:rburris@thestate.com>  

Sen. Darrell Jackson remembers his days at racially segregated Atlas Road Elementary School as good days.

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School Choice and Racial Balance

I like Peterson's idea:

To achieve racial balance, let  parents choose their school, and let oversubscribed schools admit students by  lot. If parents of all races and ethnicities seek admission to a particular  school at the same rate, then a lottery will ensure that the school's social  mix reflects that of the school district, the very goal Seattle said it tried  to achieve.


School Choice and Racial Balance
July 24, 2007; Page A15

Schools that admit students on the basis of race run afoul of the Constitution, wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the recent Supreme Court case, Parents v. Seattle. Over-subscribed schools may not use race as a tie-breaker when deciding which students to admit.

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Maverick Leads Charge for Charter Schools

What Steve Barr is doing is truly revolutionary and every school reformer should be cheering him on!

Steve Barr, a  major organizer of charter schools, has been waging what often seems like a  guerrilla war for control of this city’s chronically failing high  schools.
In just seven years, Mr. Barr’s Green Dot Public Schools  organization has founded 10 charter high schools and has won approval to open  10 more. Now, in his most aggressive challenge to the public school system, he  is fighting to seize control of Locke Senior High, a gang-ridden school in  Watts known as one of the city’s worst. A 15-year-old girl was killed by  gunfire there in 2005.
In the process, Mr. Barr has fomented a teachers revolt  against the Los Angeles Unified School District. He has driven a wedge through  the city’s teachers union by welcoming organized labor — in contrast to other  charter operators — and signing a contract with an upstart union. And he has  mobilized thousands of black and Hispanic parents to demand better  schools.
Educators and policy makers from Sacramento to Washington are  watching closely because many believe Green Dot’s audacious tactics have the  potential to strengthen and expand the charter school movement  nationwide.
“He’s got a take-no-prisoners style,” said Jaime Regalado, the  director of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/c/california_state_university/index.html?inline=nyt-org> , Los  Angeles. “He’s channeled the outrage of African-American and Latino parents  into the public space in a way that’s new.”

Maverick Leads Charge for Charter Schools

By SAM DILLON <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/d/sam_dillon/index.html?inline=nyt-per>
Published: July 24, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/24/education/24charter.html <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/24/education/24charter.html?_r=1&amp;hp=&amp;oref=slogin&amp;pagewanted=all>

LOS ANGELES — Steve Barr, a major organizer of charter schools, has been waging what often seems like a guerrilla war for control of this city’s chronically failing high schools.
In just seven years, Mr. Barr’s Green Dot Public Schools organization has founded 10 charter high schools and has won approval to open 10 more. Now, in his most aggressive challenge to the public school system, he is fighting to seize control of Locke Senior High, a gang-ridden school in Watts known as one of the city’s worst. A 15-year-old girl was killed by gunfire there in 2005.

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Warriors Don't Cry

A month or two ago, Joel Klein highly recommend that I read Warriors Don't Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock's Central High
(www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1416948821/tilsoncapitalpar <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1416948821/tilsoncapitalpar> ), and I'm really glad he did -- it's a riveting book (published in 1995) that I couldn't put down once I started it this week.  

I suspect most people are like I was: I had heard of this battle in 1957, in which President Eisenhower had to call out the 101st Airborne Division to face down the racist governor and mob, but had no idea of the details -- that calling out the 101st was only the beginning of the drama, a school year filled with near-death experiences for the nice brave black teenagers who showed Gandhi-like courage and willingness to turn the other cheek.  
Here's an excerpt from the book, written by one of the students, Melba Pattillo Beals, describing what school was like halfway through the school year, after the 101st had been withdrawn:

Even before lunch on our first day back,  we had all begun to experience a hell we could not have imagined.  The  rumor was that the White Citizens Council would pay reward money to the person  who could incite us to misbehave and get ourselves expelled.  It was  apparent that many students were going for that reward.
Boys on motorcycles threw an iron pipe at  the car in which Gloria and Carlotta rode to school.  Inside school, the  group of students whose talent was walking on my heels until they bled met me  after each and every class to escort me to the next.  I would speed up,  they would speed up.  I couldn't escape, no matter what I did.   Ernie and Jeff were bombarded with wet towels, and boys overheated their  showers.  Gloria and Elizabeth were shoved and kicked.  Carlotta was  tripped in the hall, and I was knocked face forward onto the floor.   Thelma was spared some of the physical abuse during that period because of her  petite stature and fragility, but even she was jostled.
One of the ever-present and most annoying  pastimes was spraying ink or some foul-smelling, staining yellow substance on  our clothes, on our books, in our lockers, on our seats, or on whatever of  ours they could get their hands on...
A short time after Minnijean's return, a  boy doused her with what appeared to be a bucket of soup.  She froze in  her tracks and did not respond, even as the greasy liquid trickled down her  cheat and horror painted her face.  Afterward, a group of perhaps fifty  students gathered outside the principal's office to shout cheers for the  douser...
Large, boisterous groups of hecklers  stared intently and harassed the living daylights out of us.  On several  occasions, seventy or so students showed up at school wearing all black to  protest our presence.  Those were known as "black days."
The segregationists organized a systemic  process for phoning our homes at all hours of the night to harass us.   They also phoned our parents at their places of work and any other relatives  or friends they could annoy.  One day, Terrence's mother rushed into the  principal's office, having been called and told her son was seriously injured,  only to find the call had been a hoax.  Repeated bomb threats were  telephoned to our homes.

The entire school year was just like this.  I don't think I would have lasted a week, yet 8 of the 9 students lasted the entire year and the one senior became the first black graduate of Central High.
In a little-known footnote, Gov. Faubus (who just before he died in 1994 said if he had to do it all over again, he'd do the same thing) closed ALL Little Rock schools for TWO FULL YEARS before Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP were able to get them opened.  I'm sure the white students were mostly able to go to private schools, while the black students in Little Rock lost precious years of education (I believe that this was a common technique elsewhere as well in response to integration).
This book captures very important history that resonates to this day.  Read the last article below about how black leaders in South Carolina are wondering whether integration has served black children in that state well...

Blacks rethink school choice
Pastors, lawmakers say S.C. poorly educates many pupils
rburris@thestate.com <mailto:rburris@thestate.com>  

Sen. Darrell Jackson remembers his days at racially segregated Atlas Road Elementary School as good days.

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