Friday, September 17, 2010

Every child can excel: If only the teachers unions would get behind schools that work

A WONDERFUL article about Mike Piscal and the 15-charter-school network he's built in Los Angeles, Inner City Education Foundation, by one of his former colleagues, and the financial struggles ICEF faces (like all charters, especially in California), thanks to the power of the unions, who try to kill every non-union school, even if it's achieving educational miracles for children.  I join the unions in protesting crappy charter schools and and agree that they should be shut down (and, unlike them, I also think regular public schools that are crappy should be shut down), but it makes me so mad that I can't see straight when they try to kill GREAT schools.  Nothing shows more clearly what their REAL agenda is:

I viewed the subject of American public education as complex; he saw it as simple. It would have been an endless conversation between two friends if he hadn't taken matters out of the realm of the theoretical. He quit his job, put $40,000 of debt on his credit card and started something called the Inner City Education Foundation, which has become one of those charter school miracles that makes you question everything you've ever believed about the intractable nature of poverty in urban America.

Consisting of 15 schools in a once academically blighted area of south Los Angeles and with an 88% African American enrollment, ICEF has done what we are always told is impossible. All five of its elementary schools have eliminated the achievement gap in reading for its African American students. Eliminated it. That fact alone should cause the Department of Education to send a team of researchers to ICEF this afternoon and to keep them there until they learn what Mike's doing.

To add a little sizzle to the steak: one of his elementary campuses - View Park Prep, which has a 100% African-American student body - just beat the reading scores of Beverly Hills Unified. Of his five graduating classes of high school seniors, 99% have been accepted to college, and an astounding 91% are still enrolled in college full-time. Operating on the tiniest budget imaginable - about $1,700 less per student than the L.A. public schools, in a state that ranks 46th in the nation in education funding - Mike has created a 15-campus testament to the maxim of Theodore Sizer: "The highest compliment you can pay a child is to be demanding."

And how is the educational industrial complex responding to Mike's miraculous gift to the city, to his sending so many low-income kids to so many great colleges? By trying to close him down.

If you think there aren't powerful forces arrayed against the accountability movement and school reform, talk to someone running a high-performing charter school. There's an underground river of cash flowing from the teachers' unions to the state legislatures. In California alone - where public school teaching is a closed shop, and where you have to join a union the day you get hired - 325,000 teachers pay upwards of $800 each in union fees each year.

That's $260 million a year, and I can guarantee you that very few pennies of it are being spent to advance the cause of academically excellent charter schools and their non-union teachers.

Mike's schools would be excellent candidates for some of the $4.35 billion in Race to the Top money that the federal government is about to give high-performing schools, but he can't even apply for any of it because California can't compete for the funds. Guess why? The unions refused to lend their support to the state's application, and we got turned down. Again.

The unions aren't interested in a race to the top; they are heavily invested in their death grip on last place because in the union mentality, kids don't come first, adults come first. Right now, when Mike ought to be focused on adding more campuses to ICEF, teaching more kids to read, and sending more kids to college (in June, two of his graduating classes of high school seniors earned a staggering $5.5 million in college scholarship money), he's just trying to make payroll, keeping things together with chewing gum and prayer until the California budget finally passes.

Unlike conventional public schools, his aren't eligible for bridge loans from the federal government - I wonder why? - so 184 of the best teachers in the state of California are teaching their hearts out and hoping Mike will find a way to get paychecks in their mailboxes. Here's a guy who knows how to prepare low-income kids for college, and how does he spend his days? Begging foundations for money because the unions are keeping him as far away from tax dollars as they can get him.


Every child can excel: If only the teachers unions would get behind schools that work

Sunday, September 12th 2010, 4:00 AM

a summary of ICEF's results:




ICEF Public Schools is a charter management organization (CMO) operating 15 high performing K-12 charter schools in a 45-square mile area of South Los Angeles.  ICEF was the first CMO established in Los Angeles, and ten years after opening its first charter school - View Park Preparatory in 1999 - ICEF has proven its model as a system of high performing schools that has closed the achievement gap in literacy at the elementary level and boasts the highest SAT's scores of any CMO in Los Angeles.

o   ICEF is successfully building a pipeline to college for the children and families of South L.A.

o   ICEF has closed the achievement gap between African American students and their white peers at several levels: elementary school system wide on the state's English Language Arts test, middle school science achievement; and at the high school level in high school graduation rates, in meeting A-G requirements, college matriculation rates, and college persistency rates.   

o   ICEF's College Readiness Model has created a college-going culture at all ICEF schools.  This model along with a highly effective College Counseling program has helped ICEF graduate four classes of seniors with a 100% college acceptance rate and 100% matriculation to college in the fall.

o   ICEF is creating systemic change by providing rigorous educational opportunities and demonstrating that all children, regardless of background, are capable of succeeding academically.


Elementary School Success

o   ICEF elementary schools have closed the achievement gap between African American students and their white peers in English Language Arts.  70.6% of ICEF's African American students scored advanced or proficient on the California Standards Test (CST), compared to 70.8% of white students and only 43% of African American students statewide.

o   View Park Preparatory Elementary students outperform students in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica with over 78% of students scoring advanced or proficient in English Language Arts.

o   Frederick Douglass Academy Elementary students outperformed Culver City Unified students in math with 74.3% of students scoring advanced or proficient on the CST.



Middle School Success

o   All ICEF middle schools are significantly outperforming all traditional neighborhood schools.

o   While traditionally serving predominately African American students, ICEF has demonstrated success in educating Latino students and large populations of English Language Learners.  ICEF Vista Middle Academy (85% Latino) demonstrated significant growth in both English Language Arts and Math and is estimated to outperform all other ICEF Middle Schools on the Academic Performance Index (surpassing an 800).

o   ICEF Middle Schools are closing the achievement gap for both African American and Latino students.  ICEF schools outperform these subgroups at in LAUSD and at the state level; over 20% more ICEF students score advanced and proficient in ELA and Math than LAUSD.



High School Success

o   In 2009, ICEF students had the highest SAT scores of all CMO high schools in Los Angeles and rank 6th in the city overall (out of 75 high schools) for high schools that tested more than 70% of their students. 

o   ICEF has proven that its College Readiness Model can be replicated.  In June 2010, ICEF graduated seniors from our second high school, Frederick Douglass Academy High School, with 100% of graduates accepted to college and enrolling this fall.

o   The ICEF Class of 2010 received over $5.5 million in scholarships for college; including one (1) Gates Millennium Scholar and two (2) Posse Foundation scholars.

o   100% of ICEF graduates have been accepted to college; 91% of ICEF alumni are still enrolled in college three years later – believed to be the 2nd highest persistency rate in the nation for low income and minority students

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