Wednesday, October 31, 2007

'Students First In Line' Program To Offer Job Training At Needy Schools

This Onion spoof video "news" report is pretty funny:

The nation's poorest schools will receive extra government funding to teach their students skills like rifle assembly and precision marching.

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schools vs. parents

Eddie Rodriguez (Exec Dir of REACH) and another friend, who used to be a NYC public school teacher, have been having an interesting discussion about whether schools or parents are more to blame for the underachievement of low-income, minority kids.  Here are my friend's comments:

I fear I will get a tongue-lashing from Whitney for "blaming the victim" here.  I don't believe I had low expectations for my students; quite the opposite.  I was irritated, if  anything, that I was more ambitious for them than they were -- or their  parents were -- for themselves.  But I do believe the children I worked with grew up in a low- to no-expectation culture.  Frankly, I think the culture at large is sclerotic, but it's easier to mitigate against it if you're well-off.  I'm simply out of my depth on what seems to make Asian communities different, but education appears to be a core civic value in many,  perhaps most, Asian communities.  There were very few families that I worked with that came from educated backgrounds.  Indeed, I often felt that, apart from a few standard homilies, most of my students’ families didn't really internalize the idea that education could be a means to any meaningful end.  On the other hand, I'm stunned at the percentage of the student population at the selective high schools that are Asian.

One of  the reason that I'm interested in doing more for the high-achieving subset of low-income minority kids is my belief -- utterly untested, I'll allow -- that  we're not doing anything meaningful to create a core of highly educated,  upwardly mobile families in our most economically devastated neighborhoods.  Everyone focuses on outcomes, but they define it too narrowly: rising test scores, even high school graduation rates, are meaningless unless those things lead to higher education opportunities and success in college and beyond.  I'm on the board of a non-profit that runs a new small school in  the inner city -- and a supposedly successful one.  Privately, I'm not  convinced yet.  I'll be convinced when the school's graduates go to reputable four-year colleges, stay there, and take their place at the economic table after graduation.  Anything less is not satisfying.  Or  acceptable, really.

Here's Eddie's reply:

I don't think you're blaming the victim at all.  If anything, you're keeping it real.  At some point, people in the hood need to stop hating and start duplicating.

Honestly, though, I have always struggled with the issue.  Most of the time I firmly believe that kids and families are so far removed from being "in the know," that the  absence of high expectations is understandable.  Nonetheless, there is a  saying -- "If you don't know, you better ask somebody!" -- that you always  hope folks will just do (but we understand may not be happening).  It  seems to me that Chinese dishwashers and laundromat workers know at least to ask, and have access to some answers pointing them in the right direction, no  matter how removed they are from "being in the know."

Other times, I may be a bit harsher on folks and the low expectations they may have, but the concern about behavior probably needs to be articulated more.  Indeed, if we're about obtaining real results, perhaps it's counterproductive to sugarcoat things -- let's keep it real.  The statistics are real; our low achievement is real; the difficulty that so many poor kids of color will  experience to get on the track of true upwardly social mobility is  real.

We should also keep it real, particularly if all that means is setting the bar high in order to help folks understand how high the bar is and how attainable meeting high expectations is if we all keep it real.

As for my "tongue lashing for blaming the victim," I actually agree with what my friends are saying.  I don't think schools deserve all the blame for the awful academic underachievement of low-income, minority kids.  In fact, if I could push one button and either fix parents or fix schools in this country, I'd push the parents button in a heartbeat.
My point is simply this: we can fix -- or at least substantially improve -- schools, whereas I don't think we can fix parents (or our increasingly materialistic, shallow, complacent and self-centered culture in general).  The discussion of lousy parenting reminds me of the one over trying to integrate schools -- I'd love to improve parents, just as I'd love to integrate schools, but I don't think either is going to happen to any material degree, so let's get moving on fixing schools (and, incidentally, good schools tend to engage parents and help them be better parents).
Lastly, speaking of our culture vs. Asia's, my in-laws just got back from China and visited a kindergarten classroom there.  The level of stuff the kids were doing confirms what I've been saying for a while: the Chinese are going to kick our asses for the next century (until they too become rich, lazy and complacent).

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Christo Rey schools results

Regarding the emails I sent out a week or so ago about the Cristo Rey schools, one friend has a different view.  I'd welcome others' views:

Their results are mediocre at best.   See their scores at:
Their ACT scores are essentially the same  (around 17 on average) as their neighborhood schools despite the fact that they get 50% of their students from Catholic middle schools.  They also  lose half of their students over the 4 years and still claim to get 100%  college matriculation.

So they basically aren’t adding any value at all except maybe focusing what’s left of their senior class on college a bit better than the neighborhood schools do.  But then  again, if half of their entering kids are from Catholic schools, they may have been headed to college already.
What a  sham.

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This letter to the editor highlight a good example of Ravitch's "work":

Diane Ravitch claims that national test results show New York's tests are flawed. She is wrong, and her attack ignores many facts and distorts others.  



October 7, 2007 -- Diane Ravitch claims that national test results show New York's tests are flawed. She is wrong, and her attack ignores many facts and distorts others.

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It's about time somebody pointed out that the empress has no clothes.  Diane Ravitch has an obvious personal vendetta against Bloomberg and Klein's education reforms in NYC, which she should be cheering based on her frequently stated past views.  Three cheers for Kathy Wylde for giving her the ripping she so richly deserves:

This is just the latest of many examples of an odd Ravitch turnaround on local education issues -- reversals that seem more tied to her unhappiness with the personalities in the Bloomberg administration than its policies.
During the past five years, the administration's school reforms have included many of the ideas that she championed in the past. But rather than support their adoption, Ravitch has emerged as Bloomberg's most vocal critic...
It isn't clear why Diane  Ravitch is so intent on discrediting the policies she once championed. What is clear is that, when it comes to public education in New York City, she's no longer a source we can rely on for fair-minded commentary.  



October 30, 2007 -- THE Bloomberg administration and the United Federation of Teachers reached a historic agreement two weeks ago: For the first time, the union agreed to a compensation system that awards bonuses to teachers who succeed in improving student performance in the city's toughest schools.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Media myths about the Jena 6

A very different view of the Jena 6:

By now, almost  everyone in America has heard of  Jena,  La., because they've  all heard the story of the "Jena 6." White students hanging nooses barely punished, a schoolyard fight, excessive punishment for  the six black attackers, racist local officials, public outrage and protests –  the outside media made sure everyone knew the basics.

There's just one  problem: The media got most of the basics wrong. In fact, I have never before witnessed such a disgrace in professional journalism. Myths replaced facts, and journalists abdicated their solemn duty to investigate every claim because they were seduced by a powerfully appealing but false narrative of racial injustice.

I should know. I  live in Jena. My wife has taught at Jena High School for many years.  And most important, I am probably the only reporter who has covered these  events from the very beginning.

The reason the  Jena cases have been  propelled into the world spotlight is two-fold: First, because local officials did not speak publicly early on about the true events of the past year, the media simply formed their stories based on one-side's statements – the  Jena 6. Second, the  media were downright lazy in their efforts to find the truth. Often, they simply reported what they'd read on blogs, which expressed only one side of  the issue.


Media myths about the Jena 6

A local journalist tells the story you haven't heard.

By Craig Franklin
Christian Science Monitor, 10/24/07
Jena, La.

By now, almost everyone in America has heard of Jena, La., because they've all heard the story of the "Jena 6." White students hanging nooses barely punished, a schoolyard fight, excessive punishment for the six black attackers, racist local officials, public outrage and protests – the outside media made sure everyone knew the basics.

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Widespread Teacher Sexual Misconduct Reported

I used to say that teacher union contracts had such absurd job protections for teachers that you'd have to be a sexual predator to get fired -- but apparently even that doesn't qualify...

 An Associated Press investigation found more than 2,500 cases over five  ears in which educators were punished for actions from bizarre to sadistic.
There are 3 million public school teachers nationwide, most devoted to  their work. Yet the number of abusive educators — nearly three for every  school day — speaks to a much larger problem in a system that is stacked  against victims.
Most of the abuse never gets reported. Those cases reported often end with  no action. Cases investigated sometimes can't be proven, and many abusers have  several victims.

Published: October 18, 2007
Widespread Teacher Sexual Misconduct Reported

The young teacher hung his head, avoiding eye contact. Yes, he had touched a fifth-grader's breast during recess. "I guess it was just lust of the flesh," he told his boss.

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School Choice Story Misleads

I should have read more carefully the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal article I sent around yesterday that claims a new study shows that school choice isn't working in Milwaukee.  I've studied Milwaukee's results and have even visited the city to see the program in person and, while the data isn't 100% definitive, I'm convinced that the broad range of parental choice in Milwaukee is working in a big way.  For a summary, see slide #10 (page 77 in the lower right corner) of my slides posted here:
Here's the first cut of a rebuttal by School Choice Wisconsin:

while the WPRI report purports to  address the impact of school choice in Milwaukee, it excludes two of the major  education options available to Milwaukee parents.  Further, it relies on  no data from MPS or MPS parents.

An initial review of the study  suggests that it contains notable factual errors.  A more deliberate review of the report is forthcoming.  It will address factual errors and analyze the study’s controversial methodology.

School Choice Story Misleads
School Choice Wisconsin, October 2007
Contact: Susan Mitchell, (414) 319-9160
October 25, 2007

In a highly misleading article, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week misrepresented a new study from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI).  The paper’s coverage has generated considerable attention in Wisconsin and nationally.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Opening Minds, and Doors

And here's an article from the NYT a few weeks ago about a CR school in NYC:

Jhomel, 16, and Arisleydi, 17, attend Cristo Rey New York High School on  East 106th Street, where every student works to pay the tuition. It is a jarring notion at a time of stupendous wealth. Cristo Rey is a small Catholic  college preparatory school open to boys and girls whose families cannot afford  private school tuition. Many have average scores or are a few years behind on  standardized tests, so they would not be seen as the minority students so  prized by elite institutions that they would win scholarships.
The premise of the East Harlem school, and 11 others in the loose Cristo  Rey network across the country, is that age 13 is the exact moment to fan kids’ expectations, not snuff them out. Their jobs do more than pay  tuition...
The first Cristo Rey school opened in Chicago in 1996, backed by the  foundation of a venture capitalist named B.J. Cassin, and later by the Bill  and Melinda Gates Foundation. Each Cristo Rey school functions as a  temporary employment agency that provides entry-level clerical help — their  students — to law firms, cultural organizations, banks. The 12 schools in the  network serve about 3,000 students, most of them poor. Another one is planned for Brooklyn next year.
In the class of 2006, 96 percent of the graduates enrolled in college, according to the Cristo Rey network.


October 6, 2007
About New York
Opening Minds, and Doors

On their way to work yesterday, Arisleydi Garcia and Jhomel Solano spoke about the SAT they will take this morning.

“I’m trying to stay in a calm state of mind,” Arisleydi said.

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Eager to Learn, Newark Teenagers Embrace Lessons in Perseverance

I've never visited at Cristo Rey school but have heard good things about them.  Here's an article in today's NYT about a new CR school in Newark:

After every cataclysm had struck — after his father had died and his mother had fallen ill with heart disease, after one older brother had gone into jail and another into a psychiatric hospital, after exhausting the welcome at a sister’s home and moving into a shelter, after shuttling through 13 schools by  the eighth grade — after all of that, Bukhari Washington clung to one vision.
Somehow, he would still attend Christ the King Prep.
By last spring, he had been admitted to the school, the first new Catholic high school to open in this epically troubled city in half a century. Come  September, he was to enter with the first 100 freshmen. Donors had put forward not only tuition for Bukhari, but also money for his school uniform of blue blazer, pressed trousers and striped tie.

Eager to Learn, Newark Teenagers Embrace Lessons in Perseverance

-- After every cataclysm had struck — after his father had died and his mother had fallen ill with heart disease, after one older brother had gone into jail and another into a psychiatric hospital, after exhausting the welcome at a sister’s home and moving into a shelter, after shuttling through 13 schools by the eighth grade — after all of that, Bukhari Washington clung to one vision.

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Great Expectations: Why big donors back Teach for America

An interesting article about Teach for America:

That kind of thinking has paid off. This year's 2,900 new teachers were picked from 18,172 applicants—an acceptance rate of only 17 percent.  Ninety-eight percent of those accepted chose to join the program, a remarkably high "yield," and the corps members are steadily more  impressive <>  than they were before. But the goal isn't to attract the  teachers who were the best college students, it's to pick the ones who will be  most effective in the classroom. Comparing its reasons for selecting corps  members to their performance as teachers, TFA refines its selection methods  based on what it learns by cross-referencing. The organization's goal is really to improve performance and the likelihood that its corps will stay committed.
Which gets to a number that regularly raises eyebrows, though no academic  study has challenged it frontally: the scale of the would-be movement. While  TFA is careful to say the number is based on an extrapolation from the  three-fifths of former corps members who responded to a questionnaire, it  reports that 67 percent of its alums, or more than 8,000 people spanning 15  years, remain in education—half as teachers, the others in various roles. At  last count, 285 were running schools as principals. In three networks of  charter schools that are especially effective in serving low-income  students—Achievement First; Uncommon Schools; and the Knowledge is Power  Program, founded by two TFA alums -- 60 percent of the principals are TFA alumni.  TFA alums are also spread through  the  administration of the Washington, D.C., school district.
What makes TFA so influential, Heather McLeod Grant and Leslie R. Crutchfield explain in the Stanford Social Innovation Review , is this kind of  leverage.


Philanthropy: Who's giving, who's getting.
Great Expectations: Why big donors back Teach for America.
By Lincoln Caplan
Updated Friday, Oct. 19, 2007, at 7:30 AM ET

"The Mother Theresa of U.S. Preppie Do-Gooders," a blogger recently styled Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America. It's Teresa, actually, and Kopp went to public school in Dallas, not to Groton, but the 40-year-old is definitely an icon of the Gen Y quest for meaning. In the nonprofit world, and increasingly outside it, the story of Kopp and TFA twinkles like a fable. It's about "one naive college kid with a big idea," as Kopp said in her 2001 book, One Day, All Children … <> .

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Choice may not improve schools, study says

For those who think vouchers are THE solution, this study will be discouraging.  For those, like me, who think a well-designed program that gives parents a range of choices is one of 100 1% solutions, this study isn't surprising or discouraging.

"The report you are reading did not yield the results we had hoped to  find," George Lightbourn, a senior fellow at the institute, wrote in the  paper's first sentence.
"We had expected to find a wellspring of hope that increased parental involvement in the Milwaukee Public Schools would be the key ingredient in improving student performance," Lightbourn wrote. But "there are realistic limits on the degree to which parental involvement can drive market-based reform in Milwaukee."
Even some of the most ardent supporters of school choice in Milwaukee have seen that the purest version of the idea - in which there is little government oversight of schools, and parental decisions in a free market dictate which  schools thrive -- does not square with the reality of what happened in Milwaukee when something close to such a system existed.
That reality can be summed up in two phrases: "bad schools" and "little change."

Choice may not improve schools, study says
Report on MPS comes from longtime supporter of plan
Posted: Oct. 23, 2007

A study being released today suggests that school choice isn't a powerful tool for driving educational improvement in Milwaukee Public Schools.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

A school that works

It was nice to see that my recent email, forwarding the comments about Bronx Prep by the Stanford Dean of Admissions, made it to the editorial page of the NY Daily News.  Gotta love the power of the internet (and a big spam list)!

Bronx Preparatory Charter School is in the South Bronx and serves 540 students who are admitted by lottery. They're from neighborhoods that have more than a fair share of poverty - and they're a case study in what happens when regular kids get an opportunity to excel. They also prove why  opening more publicly funded, privately operated charter schools is  critical.
What follows is an e-mail sent by the director of admissions  of Stanford University, one of America's top colleges, to Bronx Prep's leader,  Dr. Samona Tait:

A school that works ...
Friday, October 19th 2007, 4:00 AM


Bronx Preparatory Charter School is in the South Bronx and serves 540 students who are admitted by lottery. They're from neighborhoods that have more than a fair share of poverty - and they're a case study in what happens when regular kids get an opportunity to excel. They also prove why opening more publicly funded, privately operated charter schools is critical.

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Harvard Crimson on REACH

The Harvard Crimson today had two editorials about the REACH program (apparently without knowledge that the funder and founder of the program, Bill Ackman and I, know each other from our Harvard undergrad days -- we met selling advertising for the Let's Go series of travel guides in the summer of 1986).
Regarding the second editorial, which criticizes the program (was I that clueless in college?  Hint: YES!), here's how we answer the issues the editorial raises (from the Frequently Asked Questions of our web site:

Might monetary incentives pervert the  ideal of education and demotivate students since now they're studying for money rather than the joy of learning?

    We don't think so – in fact, we believe that rewarding hard work and high achievement will result in even higher motivation.  These students are not children – most are savvy young adults, about to go off to         
    college, and have held jobs and know what it’s like to earn money in exchange for hard work.  But almost all of them are poor and thus don’t have the same opportunities and resources that most other students  
    do.  They have very real and pressing financial needs to, for example, pay for college visits and applications, books, class trips and the senior prom, so in many cases they are forced to make a choice no student
    should have to make: between committing to their studies or taking a job (usually a low-paying, dead-end one).  

REACH  seeks to level the playing field and help ease the students’ financial burdens so they can make an important investment in their future, which is  tremendously exciting and motivating.  To see students’ enthusiastic reactions to the REACH program, click here <>   to go to the web page for the REACH launch event and watch some of the videos,  and click here <>  to read what students and others are saying about REACH.


Opinion: Pay for Performance
Students will benefit from monetary rewards for high scores
The Harvard Crimson
By The <>  Crimson Staff
October 19, 2007

If someone offered you $1,000 for getting a five on an Advanced Placement (AP) Exam, would you take it? We certainly would. And if you attend one of 25 low-performing high schools in New York City, now you can. This particular incentive is part of a larger program being implemented in New York City this year under the auspices of Roland Fryer, assistant professor of economics at Harvard. The idea behind the program is to “pay for performance” by monetarily rewarding students who do well on standardized tests. Despite concerns that the program undermines pure academic motives, it is a commendable initiative.


Dissenting Opinion: Paying the Way Forward
Monetary incentives pervert the ideal of education
The Harvard Crimson
By Pierpaolo Barbieri <>  
October 19, 2007

There is consensus among the liberal elites that the American education system is a fundamentally flawed one, and that it requires sweeping reform. Nevertheless, I dissent from the Crimson Staff in their endorsement of monetary incentives for New York City schools that serve communities with a high proportion of low-income Latino or black students. Doubtless, many of the students from such disadvantaged backgrounds need help to stay in school and focus on their studies, which are eventually what will give them a chance at better circumstances. But paying the way forward will not pave the way forward.

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Prestige Academy in Wilmington, Del

Another charter school that sounds like it's going to be highly successful is starting in Wilmington, Delaware next September (also founded by someone currently in the Building Excellent Schools program).  Here's a report from a good friend (also in the hedge fund business), who's given over $100,000 to support alternative education in Camden and Chester:

I had lunch today with Jack Perry, the founder of  Wilmington, Delaware's charter school to be opened next September.  The Prestige Academy  

Jack grew up in what he describes as "the  projects" in Brooklyn "notorious for its violence".  He got a good education and went into social work, but found that social work means nothing if the kids he's working with can't read.  He realized he needed to get to these kids a lot earlier.  He changed his career and went into alternative education to influence urban kids a lot earlier in life.  Jack got one of 13 slots out of nearly 700 applicants for Building Excellent Schools in Boston where he was trained to start a charter school and now that is his mission in life.

He is in the early stages of starting one in Wilmington, Delaware, where there is great need for alternatives for  parents.  His vision is to open next September for 100 fifth graders and take it to 6th, 7th and 8th grade the next thee years.  It will be all boys, with a long school day and every other Saturday in school.  Very rigorous on math and reading.  He is very familiar with KIPP's  model.

Over lunch today Jack showed me energy, intelligence and integrity -- all  three.  They need some money to start up.  I live near Wilmington and support alternative education in Chester and  Camden, the two worst public school districts in my region.  I've  always looked for something in Wilmington, and I think I found it  today with an exceptional man in charge.  They need some bigger donors to get this off the ground.

You can learn a lot more about this  new school on their website.       Jack's e-mail is

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Coney Island Prep needs board members

Speaking of No Excuses charter schools, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jacob Mnookin recently.  He's a Middlebury, Teach for America and Princeton alum who is preparing to open a just such a school in Coney Island in the fall of 2009.  He needs 4-6 motivated people to join his board in the near future, so if you're interested, please email him directly at <> .  Here's an email from him with more details:

I am working to submit an application to  SUNY to open a No Excuses public charter school, Coney Island Prep, serving students in the Coney Island community in grades 5-12.  I am currently in a Fellowship with Building Excellent  Schools, a national non-profit that works to train leaders to open and run  high quality urban charter schools.  Through this Fellowship, I have had over 300 hours of professional development trainings on designing and operating charter schools.  Additionally, the Fellowship has afforded me the unique opportunity to visit over 15 high-performing public charter schools including Williamsburg Prep, KIPP Bronx, KIPP Team, Roxbury Prep,  Amistad Academy, and Northstar Academy, and speak with those school leaders in order to incorporate the best practices from those schools into the educational design of Coney Island Prep.   
I was an English and Political Science major at Middlebury College, and upon graduation I joined Teach For America and taught high school English for three years in Newark, NJ.  After teaching, I returned to school and recently completed both my Masters in Public Affairs and Urban & Regional Planning from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and  International Affairs at Princeton University.   
 I am currently looking to put together a  founding board of like-minded people who bring a diverse skill-set to the founding team.  If anyone is interested in learning more about joining the founding board, please contact me at

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Correllation vs. causation

Last week's front-page WSJ article about the controversy integrating schools in Milton, MA ( got me thinking about a joke I first heard earlier this year, which I found hilarious:

 At a U2 concert in Dublin, Bono asked the  audience for a moment of silence.   When the room became perfectly quiet, he began to clap his hands slowly.  Then, into the microphone, he said, "Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies."  After a few moments, a lone voice from the crowd pierced the profound silence: "Fookin’ stop doing  it then!"

The reason this is so funny is that the guy confuses correllation and causation (another classic example is that flood deaths in Bangladesh are highly correllated with ice cream sales in NYC, but nobody thinks that our consumption of ice cream is killing Bangladeshis -- it's just that both peak in July and August).
While these are examples are silly ones, it's actually very common for people to confuse correllation and causation, which is, in part, what I think is going on in Milton, MA (and around the country): perfectly sensible people look at the fact that: 1) primarily black and Latino schools, on average, do very poorly academically and 2) primarily white or Asian schools, on average, do much better academically, and conclude (often subconsciously) that black and Latino students cause schools to be bad, and that therefore the best solution is to send as many black and Latino students as possible to primarily white/Asian schools.  

I am not making this up: here's an excerpt from Wendy Kopp's commencement speech at Mt. Holyoke last May (

Most Americans view educational inequity  as an intractable problem.  Every year, Gallup surveys the public, asking why we have low educational outcomes in low-income communities.  Out of twenty options, the public responds  'lack of student motivation,' 'lack of parental involvement,' and 'home-life  issues.'  In other words, most Americans believe this is an  entrenched societal problem rather than a problem that our schools can change.

In other words, Americans have it precisely backwards: they think schools are being victimized by lousy students, parents and communities, rather than the reverse!
To be fair, as I've noted many times before, it's really, really hard to operate a safe, effective public school in an inner-city communuity, but it can done.  It must be done!  As for those so-called unmotivated students with uninvolved parents and home-life issues, go visit any No Excuses charter school (like KIPP's Open House this Wed.) and you'll see that the right school can turn those same kids into hard-working, high-achieving, college-bound students with engaged parents.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tough, Sad and Smart

Bob Herbert with a powerful, spot-on Op Ed:

For three years, Mr. Cosby and Dr. Poussaint have been traveling the country, meeting with as many people as possible to explore the problems facing the black community.
There is a sense of deep sadness and loss — grief — evident in both men over the tragedy that has befallen so many blacks in America. They were on  “Meet the Press” for the entire hour Sunday, talking about their new book, a  cri de coeur against the forces of self-sabotage titled, “Come On, People: On the Path From Victims to Victors.”...
The book lays out the difficult route black people will have to take to free the many who are still trapped in prisons of extreme violence, poverty,  degradation and depression.
It’s a work with a palpable undercurrent of love throughout. And yet it pulls no punches. In a chapter titled, “What’s Going on With Black Men?,” the  authors (in a voice that sounds remarkably like Mr. Cosby’s) note:
“You can’t land a plane in Rome saying, ‘Whassup?’ to the control tower.  You can’t be a doctor telling your nurse, ‘Dat tumor be nasty.’ ”
Racism is still a plague and neither Mr. Cosby nor Dr. Poussaint give it short shrift. But they also note that in past years blacks were able to progress despite the most malignant forms of racism and that many are  succeeding today.
“Blaming white people,” they write, “can be a way for some black people to feel better about themselves, but it doesn’t pay the electric bills. There are more doors of opportunity open for black people today than ever before in the  history of America.”


October 16, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Tough, Sad and Smart

They are a longtime odd couple, Bill Cosby and Harvard’s Dr. Alvin Poussaint, and their latest campaign is nothing less than an effort to save the soul of black America.

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Failing Schools Strain to Meet U.S. Standard

For those who doubt the value of NCLB, read this recent NYT article, Failing Schools Strain to Meet U.S. Standard.  The law is finally providing a well-deserved kick in the ass to those who would prefer to whine about how hard it is to operate schools that actually educate children at even a basic, minimal standard rather than doing whatever it takes to actually accomplish that goal.  

I think this is great -- I hope every parent in the country whose child is being miseducated sues, demanding that the money being (mis)spent on his/her child's education is instead given to the parent, in order to find a better alternative (just like the special ed case the Supreme Court ruled on last week).

As a result, the law is branding numerous schools as failing, but not  producing radical change — leaving angry parents demanding redress. California  citizens’ groups have sued the state and federal government for failing to  deliver on the law’s promises.
“They’re so busy fighting No Child Left Behind,” said Mary Johnson,  president of Parent U-Turn, a civic group. “If they would use some of that  energy to implement the law, we would go farther.”

As for this question:

           “What are we supposed to do?” Ms. Paramo asked. “Shut down every school?”

Uh...YES!  Not all at once and not permanently, but I think it's critical to shut down chronically failing schools (and all the people in them who failed to educate children) -- and bring in new people: maybe a proven charter school operator, for example.  Many of the best are trying to expand, but can't find facilities.  What a win-win!

Speaking of which, this is a flaw that should be fixed:

Beyond that, the federal law does not trump contract agreements, and so teachers have generally not lost their jobs or faced transfer when schools stagnate.

Re. my comment in yesterday's email about Randi being better than other union leaders, get a load of this utter crap (LA is a freakin' disaster, rivaling Newark and DC):

A. J. Duffy, president of United Teachers of Los Angeles, said the union supported test score reviews provided they did not affect teachers’ jobs. Mr. Duffy said the federal law glossed over the travails of teaching students living in poverty. “Everyone agrees that urban education needs a shot in the arm, but it is not as bleak as the naysayers  would have it,” he said.


October 16, 2007
Failing Schools Strain to Meet U.S. Standard

LOS ANGELES — As the director of high schools in the gang-infested neighborhoods of the East Side of Los Angeles, Guadalupe Paramo struggles every day with educational dysfunction.

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Stanford's Director of Admission's take on Bronx Prep

A very nice note from Stanford's Director of Admissions to Samona Tait, the head of Bronx Prep charter school:

Just wanted to let you know that I visited Bronx Prep yesterday and I was really floored.  The visit was one of the best of my career and I’ve been visiting high schools for over 10 years, representing Boston University, Columbia University and Stanford Universit, respectively.  I was greeted with 40 or so students  who were clearly already prepared for the college admission process and they peppered me with thoughtful, important questions non-stop for nearly a full hour.  Not only were they knowledgeable about the college admission process, but I was really pleasantly surprised to learn that they already had done their homework on Stanford as well.  They were all incredibly respectful of not only me as a presenter, but of their fellow classmates as well.  Jenny and Jessica are clearly doing a top-notch job at preparing your students for even the most highly selective colleges and universities.  
Just thought I would pass this  information along.  I didn’t know about Bronx Prep until Shaunte Edmonds, a former intern of mine at Columbia, exposed me to the school.  I have to admit I was initially skeptical that I would meet many (if any) students who were  Stanford-caliber.  My visit yesterday restored much of my faith for public secondary education in New  York.
Shawn L. Abbott
 Director of Admission
 Stanford University

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New Education Plan: 'Work Hard. Be Nice. No Shortcuts'

ABC News did two great segments on KIPP earlier this week.  Below is an article, and to see the video clips click on the box in the upper right corner of the web page at:

All too often in U.S. public education, ZIP code is destiny.  Kids from poor neighborhoods are six times less likely to graduate from high school than their middle-class peers, and attempts to close that gap have been the source of exhaustive research and expensive battles. But as politicians  argue over No Child Left Behind and school boards debate whole language versus phonics, a pair of teachers has quietly spent the past decade developing a magic formula that sends low-income kids to college at an astounding rate.  
Are you ready? Here it is ... (drum roll please).
Work hard. Be nice. No shortcuts.
It may be as quaint as the eat-right-and-exercise model of weight loss, but those are the very real pillars beneath the Knowledge Is Power Program, known as KIPP. It was developed in 1995 by two young,  idealistic fourth-grade teachers in Houston. As members of the Teach for  America corps, Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg landed in a barrio school and  quickly had their grand aspirations beaten to a pulp by reality.
Despite their best efforts, an alarming number of their  students went on to middle school only to drop out, join gangs or become parents. "At first, it was very easy to go into the teacher's lounge in elementary school and point the finger," Feinberg told me. "Blame the other schools, blame the district, blame the kids, blame their parents, blame the  community. And we had an epiphany one night where we realized you know what, all this finger pointing is ... just adding to the problem. And it's not finding a solution."


New Education Plan: 'Work Hard. Be Nice. No Shortcuts'
Knowledge Is Power Program Sends 80 percent of Its Students to College

All too often in U.S. public education, ZIP code is destiny. Kids from poor neighborhoods are six times less likely to graduate from high school than their middle-class peers, and attempts to close that gap have been the source of exhaustive research and expensive battles. But as politicians argue over No Child Left Behind and school boards debate whole language versus phonics, a pair of teachers has quietly spent the past decade developing a magic formula that sends low-income kids to college at an astounding rate.

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Stop the presses!  This is really innovative and bold!

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein and United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Randi Weingarten today announced an historic agreement to award cash bonuses to teachers at high-needs schools that raise student achievement. The  schoolwide bonus program, a cash incentive program, will be implemented in about 200 of the City’s highest-needs schools during the current school year,  and expanded to roughly 400 schools in the 2008-09 school year. Schools participating in the program whose students achieve significant measurable academic progress will receive bonus money, which they will distribute  directly to teachers and other United Federation of Teachers (UFT) members.  Schools that are not successful in meeting the performance benchmarks will receive no additional funds.

It's really quite remarkable the enormous innovation that's happening in education all across New York City: the REACH program launched two days ago, some of the best charter operators in the country expanding (or, in the case of Green Dot, coming) here, Teach for America huge and growing, and the best mayor/chancellor team in the country (keep an eye on Fenty/Rhee, however, and maybe Booker and whoever he picks someday) relentlessly pushing the ball forward -- you name it, it's happening here!  Very exciting...
I gotta tip my hat to Randi for getting behind this:

“This  schoolwide bonus program recognizes and builds upon the UFT’s core philosophy that students learn, achieve and benefit most when all educators in a school collaborate to provide the best possible education,” said UFT President  Weingarten. “It properly refocuses the misguided debate over individual merit  pay. Respecting and understanding the importance of teamwork and collaboration is precisely why the UFT enthusiastically supports this schoolwide initiative  and has consistently opposed the idea of individual merit pay for teachers –  especially when based solely on student test scores.”

For all the flak she gets from reformers (some of it well deserved, to be sure), it's hard for me to think of a major teacher union leader who's more progressive: launching two charter schools, inviting Green Dot here, not taking shots at REACH yesterday and now this.  We could do a lot worse -- just ask our friends in LA, Newark and DC, for example.

It is going to be fascinating to see how these committees distribute the money:

Each  participating school will have a four member “compensation committee,” which will decide how to distribute the funds. Each school will receive enough money to give each full-time UFT educator $3,000. While compensation committees could distribute the funds evenly to all UFT members, they could also differentiate those bonuses based on individual contributions. The  compensation committee at each school will include the principal, a designee of the principal, and two UFT members chosen by the UFT members of the school.  The committees’ work will reinforce the teamwork concept that is built into this program. Members of the committee must reach agreement on how to distribute the funds before any funds are sent to the school.  

My bet: at most schools, they'll duck the tough decisions and spread it around evenly, but at least this will be extra comp for teachers at high-needs schools, a much-needed step!
Finally, kudos to those who funded this program:

In its first year,  participating educators will be eligible to receive about $20  million in bonuses. These dollars are being raised privately and, so far, commitments have been made by The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the  Robertson Foundation and the Partnership for New York  City.
           Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein and United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Randi Weingarten today announced an historic agreement to award cash bonuses to teachers at high-needs schools that raise student achievement. The schoolwide bonus program, a cash incentive program, will be implemented in about 200 of the City’s highest-needs schools during the current school year, and expanded to roughly 400 schools in the 2008-09 school year. Schools participating in the program whose students achieve significant measurable academic progress will receive bonus money, which they will distribute directly to teachers and other United Federation of Teachers (UFT) members. Schools that are not successful in meeting the performance benchmarks will receive no additional funds. In addition, the DOE and UFT today agreed to resolve a number of outstanding pension-related issues. The Mayor was joined at today’s announcement by City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. and President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City Kathryn Wylde.


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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

And more REACH media buzz

A nice AP article that went out over the wires:

Educators and private philanthropists announced Monday a program that awards cash prizes to high school students who do well on Advanced Placement  exams.
The program,  funded by the Pershing Square Foundation, is intended to increase the number of low-income and minority students who are prepared for college.  

Fewer than 1 percent of black students in city schools currently pass an A.P. test.  
"Many African-American and Latino students in New York City continue to face barriers that  prevent them from realizing their full academic potential," said Edward Rodriguez, the executive director of the program, called Rewarding  Achievement, or REACH.


NYC Students to Get cash Rewards for Advanced Placement Tests
Associated Press
Karen Matthews
October 15, 2007

NEW YORK — Educators and private philanthropists announced Monday a program that awards cash prizes to high school students who do well on Advanced Placement exams.

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REACH: more media buzz

A nice editorial in today's NY Post:

Learning for Earnings' Sake
New  York  Post
October 16,  2007

A new  pilot program is offering hefty rewards to kids at 31 public and private city high schools who pass or ace demanding Advanced Placement tests, which let high schoolers earn college credit.

         The  privately funded REACH - Rewarding Achievement - program will award up to $1,000 to students who do well on the tests, as well as $2,000 to their schools and the chance at grants to bolster their Advanced   
          Placement classes.  With too few black and Latino students taking and passing the tests, the theory is that maybe dollars will produce scholars. It's well worth the try,  encouraging students in underprivileged
          neighborhoods to reap the benefits of academic success, now and in the future.

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Klein's speech

Joel Klein gave a great five-minute speech at the REACH launch yesterday.  Below is the transcript and I posted the video clip at:



REACH Launch at The Frederick Douglass Academy

October 15, 2007

First let me start by saying what a joy it is to be here at Frederick Douglass. You know, sometimes people say,  “You have a tough job.  What do you do to have fun?”  The things I do to have fun are to go to schools like Frederick Douglass. It’s great to be here, surrounded by all these great leaders and educators in our city.
I want to commend The Council of Urban Professionals.   I want to commend Whitney Tilson and Tarrus Richardson.  They had an idea and then they made it happen.  They went out and raised some money and got the program off the ground.  They went through all the hurdles they had to go through.  You know what?   It would’ve been just as easy for them to have done something else.  But they wanted to make this happen.  They wanted to bring innovation to this city.  
In education today, ask anyone: “Education and innovation: NEW YORK CITY.”  This is another innovative, different way to try to change outcomes for our students in our city.  These guys are making it happen.  They deserve a great deal of credit.  
(To Eddie Rodriguez, REACH Executive Director)  Eddie, thank you again.  I’m always sorry to lose a great attorney (he used to work for us), but you’re doing the right thing here, Eddie, and you have made a career advancement that I admire, and I thank you for doing it.
Now I want to say a couple of words to you folks here at Frederick Douglass and all of the schools who are represented here. I know all these principals.  I know what they’re going to do with this program.
First of all, we have got to change, and change in dramatic ways, educational outcomes for kids who grow up in poverty, kids of color in this city and throughout this country.  Don’t believe for a second, don’t believe for a second, that because your family is poor, because your family recently came to the United States, because you are a minority student – don’t believe for a second that you can’t outperform everyone else.
I went to public schools in New York City.  My father was a postman, he never made it out of high school.  People always told me when I got to Columbia, “If you don’t shoot for the middle of the class, you’re not gonna do right.”  And I would say, “My teachers at Bryant High School didn’t send me to Columbia College to be in the middle of the class.”  And I want every one of you – when Eddie asks you what magna cum laude means, that  means highest honors – and I want every one of you to graduate from college and go on to graduate school.  You are leaders.  You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t leaders.  And I want the bar really high.
And tell your friends in other schools.  Let’s not start the stuff that “school ain’t for me,” or “it ain’t what I do,” or “that’s for somebody else.”  School is for everyone, and we need more kids from this community and from the communities represented by a lot our elected officials here today.  I need to challenge those communities – we need to see those kids in colleges and graduate school.  We have got to eliminate the racial and ethnic achievement gap in America today, and you guys are going to play a big, big part in that.
Now this program, what it’s going to do is just reward excellence.  And I’m all for it.  Frederick Douglass stands for excellence and we want to support our kids’ excellence.
Now a lot of people say,  “Why are you doing all these innovative things?”  And they all have an opinion. Everybody has an opinion who reads a newspaper.  Everybody has an opinion: “This is a good idea, this is a bad idea.”  Look, you wouldn’t be at Frederick Douglass if you weren’t concerned about achievement and performance academically.
But I have a good idea.  For the first time, let’s hear from the people who are going to participate in this program.  Let’s hear from those students here today who are taking AP courses.  Let me hear by the amount of noise you make what you think about this program.  If you think it’s a good program, you better let me hear a lot of  noise.  (SCREAMING,  APPLAUSE)
You guys have silenced the Chancellor.  You’ve said it all.  Thank you.  When I see the results, I know you are gonna knock the leather off the ball at Frederick Douglass.  


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Randi on REACH, and our response

Our phones are still ringing off the hook about REACH from parents, students and schools that want to be part of the program.  Exciting stuff...
1) We were pleased to see this press release from Randi today:

UFT President Randi Weingarten on student  cash awards for AP scores

October 16,  2007

The city launched on Oct. 15 a privately  funded Rewarding Achievement Program that will offer cash awards to 25 public high schools and their students for doing well on Advanced Placement tests ($1,000 to students for an AP score of 5, $750 for a 4 and $500 for a 3, and  up to $100,000 for participating schools).

UFT President  Randi Weingarten statement:

"While  this privately-funded program will provide assistance to students in 25 schools, the city needs to increase its commitment to Advanced Placement and other college-prep coursework in all of the City's middle and high schools.  
AP classes provide high school students with important opportunities to pursue rigorous courses of study that can result in college credits at a minimal cost. Unfortunately, there are far too few AP courses in New York City public high schools, and those that do exist are concentrated within a much-too-small number of high schools.  
We need to expand AP opportunities for our high school students, especially in schools serving high needs communities. We need to provide schools, teachers and students with the needed support to start and expand these programs -- the funds to schedule the extra AP classes, to purchase expensive college textbooks and to pay the exam fees for low income students, and the professional development for teachers to design and execute college courses."

Here is our response:

We agree wholeheartedly with the UFT president's sentiments and join her in calling for Advanced Placement rigor in all high schools, especially those REACH is focused on, that serve low-income communities and, in particular, African American and Latino students, who are often left off the rigorous academic track that leads students to college success.

If the REACH  program is successful, we plan to expand it to many more schools that seek to build Advanced Placement programs.   As a first step toward this goal, REACH will provide grants of $2,000  to an additional 50 New York  City schools that serve low-income students, so they can invest in their AP programs and potentially become part of the full REACH  program in future years.  REACH is also working to expand professional development opportunities for teachers at  80 low-income schools in New York  City.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The REACH launch yesterday

The launch of the REACH program yesterday was a grand slam.  Hundreds of AP students and their teachers showed up from many of the participating schools, and they were fired up!  The Frederick Douglass Academy was a great host, and its principal, Dr. Gregory Hodge, was a fabulous spokesman for the REACH program -- he thinks it will double the number of students passing AP exams at his school this year (and there were 86 passes last year)!
There were articles yesterday in the NY Times, NY Sun, NY Daily News and Washington Post (all below), and all sorts of TV and radio reporters were at the launch event (I posted links to five of the TV segments on YouTube -- see links below).  
While the coverage was extremely favorable over all, it was almost funny to see how hard the TV reporters tried to make REACH seem controversial: with a lot of effort they were able to find a couple of people willing to weep and gnash their teeth at the horrors of giving high-achieving inner-city young adults the opportunity to earn a little extra money as they go off to college, based on proving their mastery of college-level work.  We're not trying to bribe students -- just level the playing field a tiny bit.  These are all low-income kids who are often forced to make a choice no student should have to make: commit to academics or take a job to cover the high costs of college visits and application fees, the senior prom, etc.  I love this quote from one of the students who, when told about critics of REACH's reward program, asked, "What financial background is that person from?"
There were many distinguished guests at the launch event.  The program was MC'd by American Idol finalist Jared Cotter (, who opened by signing the national anthem.  Then REACH's Executive Director, Eddie Rodriguez, spoke, followed by Chancellor Joel Klein, four politicians representing the communities REACH is targeting (Assemblyman Denny Farrell, head of the Ways & Means Committee; Assemblyman Darryl Towns, Chairperson of the NYS Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus; Malcolm Smith, NY Senate Minority Leader; and Robert Jackson, Chair of the Education Committee of the NYC City Council); Ernest Logan (head of the principals union); and Tarrus Richardson (founder and chairman of The Council of Urban Professionals.) REACH is a CUP program.
Here are links to the TV segments I Tivo'd (there was also coverage on CNN, the Today Show and many others):
NY1 (short segment; 1:21):
NY1 (long segment; 3:15):
ABC 6pm news (2:15):
NBC 6pm news (2:37):
NBC 11pm news (2:17):

Making Cash a Prize for High Scores on Advanced Placement Tests

By JENNIFER MEDINA, October 15, 2007

The city is expanding the use of cash rewards for students who take standardized tests with a $1 million effort financed by philanthropists who will pay students who do well on Advanced Placement exams.

N.Y. Students Can Take AP Scores To the Bank
By Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 15, 2007

Get a top score on an Advanced Placement exam in May in any of 31 New York <>  high schools that serve low-income neighborhoods, and you'll get $1,000.

City Students Will Cash In For Top Test Scores
BY ELIZABETH GREEN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
October 15, 2007

New York City public school students will have another opportunity to turn high test scores into cash this year, thanks to a private project that is offering as much as $1,000 for a top score on an exam. The program, the brainchild of a hedge fund manager who has made improving public schools a serious hobby, is promising students at 31 city high schools a sliding scale of prize money if they pass college-level tests called Advanced Placement exams. A perfect 5 out of 5 yields $1,000; a 4 earns $750, and a 3, the lowest passing score, gets $500. Schools will also receive checks calculated to match their students' improvements.


Urban Professionals offers $1,000 for top AP test score
October 14th 2007

Smart kids at 30 city high schools are in for a windfall this year if they ace their Advanced Placement exams.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

A comment on the bell curve effect and placement

4) Another friend commented:

You’re  certainly right about the disproportionate use of private school placement by upper income families.  

In general, low income and minority kids cluster in district-provided self-contained settings  (which are considered more restrictive), while white students tend to be in resource room and inclusion placements (less restrictive), and also in district-paid private school placements (which are considered  quite restrictive).  

n other words,  there’s a kind of bell curve effect by restrictiveness of setting.  Low-income, minority students cluster in the mid-range (self-contained in-school)  settings, which tend to have very poor outcomes.  White and affluent students show a reverse bell curve, clustering in the least restrictive and most restrictive (private) settings, both of which tend to have much more positive outcomes.  

For any  individual kid, the placement determination is supposed to be made based on the student’s unique needs, but obviously race and SES status play a huge role in where kids actually end up.  When I investigated these issues for the feds, we would even hear occasional admissions in NYC from members of the placement team that they wouldn’t put a particular white child in a self-contained district setting because he would be the only white student in the  class.

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On Blaming the Victim

 Jon Sackler, chairman of ConnCAN and board member of Elm City College Prep and Achievement First charter school, sent me the following comment in a recent email:

Re: "blaming the  victim"...
Having closely observed Achievement First  schools for the past five years, I've come to believe that great schools stand on four indispensible legs: a well-designed curriculum; effective use of data to track student progress and teacher effectiveness; the ability to select and shape a great staff; and a strong and consistent system of values embraced and actively promoted by the staff that defines the culture inside that building.  
For some reason we have difficulty talking about the last piece, but without it school culture and student behavior will be defined by the standards of each student's household and community.  Solid execution of the processes that define culture is as demanding as any of the other processes that define the institution.  In the case of Achievement First, it includes a myriad of well-defined elements: Morning Circle; Town Meetings; Scholar Dollars; REACH (Respect, Enthusiasm,  Achievement, Citizenship, and Hard Work) and the 20 or so rules associated with practicing REACH; the school uniform (which is earned by the students based on their individual behavior); a language of achievement ("climbing  the mountain to college"); and so on.  When processes like these are consistently and  intelligently implemented, the serious issues of poor student motivation  and disruptive behavior are largely ameliorated and residual problems are  manageable.
These practices are not unique to Achievement  First schools: many of them were copied from KIPP, which no doubt copied from  others.  The baffling question about public education is why obviously  effective practices like these are not widely adopted by district-run  schools.

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School Integration Efforts Face Renewed Opposition

This story from the front page of Thursday's WSJ about efforts to better integrate the four elementary schools in Milton, MA is a good case study of similar efforts made over many decades around the country.  The hard truth is that in virtually every town and city in this country, the lowest-performing schools are those that serve minority kids (in most cases, they are low-income, minority kids, but this is true even when they're not low income; the article notes that in Milton, the "average household income of the neighborhood that feeds Tucker is $102,000 -- not much lower than the whiter areas of town.").
I believe that this is one of the greatest challenges facing this nation, so it drives me crazy when even intelligent, well-meaning people look at these facts and (consciously or unconsciously) come to two very erroneous conclusions: 1) the problem is that minority kids (and/or their parents) aren't very bright and/or academically motivated; and 2) the solution to the problem is to socially engineer who attends which schools such that more minority kids share classrooms (or at least schools) with white or Asian kids.  (I guess the idea is that white and Asian kids studying hard will somehow inspire the African-American and Latino kids to study hard as well?)
I have many, many problems with this thinking and the resulting actions that people in Milton and around the country are taking.
First of all, this article is completely silent on the teachers at the four elementary schools in Milton, but I would bet my last dollar that if one were to carefully evaluate every teacher at the four schools and rate them based on dozens of metrics (both "input" measures like years of experience, the caliber of the college and ed school they went to, grades and scores, whether they majored or minored in college in the subject they're teaching, etc.; as well as "output" measures like principal, parent and student evaluations, increase in test scores of each teacher's students, etc.), you would find that the white kids in Milton are far more likely to have the most effective teachers, whereas the African-American kids get the least effective teachers.  Every study I've ever seen shows this to be the case nationwide (it's true of principal talent as well), so it strains credulity to think Milton would be any different.  Thus, is it any surprise that the students at Tucker are performing at lower levels!?!?

Sure, Milton's African-American kids would benefit from moving to one of the "white" schools, but less because of white kids being good role models, and more because they'd get better teachers!  Every study shows that teacher quality swamps every other factor: in other words, a class of low-income, minority kids from broken homes and chaotic neighborhoods will learn more with a highly effective teacher than my kids will with a highly ineffective teacher.

So given this, if Milton wants equality of educational opportunity among its schools, why on earth is it shuffling students around?!  Instead, Milton should be moving teachers and principals around!!!  Ah, but I forgot: our schools aren't run by and for kids -- they're run by and for adults!  GRRRR!!!

Haven't we learned by now that shuffling students around, even if that results in better educational opportunities for minority kids, just doesn't work?  Students and parents don't like being moved around, forced to attend distant schools and being in a foreign environment -- and even if some minority families will do it for the educational benefit, we know with 100% certainty that white families will simply abandon the public schools altogether if their children are forced to attend schools that are perceived to be (usually correctly, sadly) dangerous and/or ineffective.

Let me be clear: I don't like how segregated our schools are and wish every school in our nation were beautifully integrated.  But it's not going to happen, and trying to pound that square peg through a round hole hasn't worked and, I predict, will never work, especially in light of the current Supreme Court.  As a nation, we need to accept the reality that most people choose to live near people just like themselves, and therefore the local schools will reflect this segregation -- and nothing's going to change that anytime soon.  

Now, in truth, if Milton were to suddenly swap the principals and teachers between Milton's highest performing school and Tucker, I don't think the achievement gap would reverse or even disappear -- there are no doubt other factors at work (the African-American kids would still come from households with lower income levels, probably watch more TV and spend less time doing homework ( for data on this, see slide #2 here:  ), are more likely to come from single-parent families with lower average education levels of parents, etc.).  But I'd bet that the majority of the achievement gap would disappear if the quality of the schools and teachers were equalized.

Therefore, we need to have a paradigm shift: stop blaming the victims of failing schools and commit to improving those schools.  I know with certainty, because I've seen it with my own eyes, that schools comprised primarily or entirely of low-income African-American and/or Latino students can succeed, if they have high expectations, a strong culture and high-caliber teachers and school leaders (the things Jon Sackler talks about below).  One doesn't have to look far to find examples that prove what's possible: for example, at KIPP, in 12 years in NYC, to my knowledge we've never had a single white student -- yet we're sending 80%+ of our graduates to four-year colleges.  It can be done!

School Integration Efforts Face Renewed Opposition
Supreme Court Ruling Sways Milton Battle;  Off to Private School
October 11, 2007; Page A1

MILTON, Mass. -- Last spring, town officials in this affluent Boston suburb changed the elementary-school assignments for 38 streets -- and sparked outrage. Some white families had been reassigned to Tucker, a mostly black school which has historically had Milton's lowest test scores.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

New Charter Schools Tsar Is Eager To Exit Boston

I don't know Duffy, but I know MATCH, so this is great news!  Welcome to New York, Michael!

 After nine months without an executive director, the city's charter school office will get a new leader this month, Chancellor Joel Klein told staff in an e-mail memo sent yesterday.
The new director, Michael Thomas Duffy, enters as pressure ramps up to create 50 new charter schools before Mayor Bloomberg leaves office in 2009.
Mr. Duffy, who now runs an inner-city charter school in Boston that has ssent every graduate to college for the last six years, said yesterday he is eager to travel south, where he said the contrast with Boston is  stark.


New Charter Schools Tsar Is Eager To Exit Boston
October 10, 2007

After nine months without an executive director, the city's charter school office will get a new leader this month, Chancellor Joel Klein told staff in an e-mail memo sent yesterday.

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