Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Published: December 12, 2011
An educator from the Scandinavian country that ranks among the world’s leaders in school quality visited New York and explained his nation’s success.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools"

“What we’re talking about here is the financialization of public education,” said Alex Molnar, a research professor at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education who is affiliated with the education policy center. “These folks are fundamentally trying to do to public education what the banks did with home mortgages.”

Monday, December 12, 2011


Schools in St. Louis area returning to healthier, made-from-scratch meals


Published: December 11, 2011
Turning control of districts over to the state has improved test scores in places like Philadelphia and Oakland, Calif., but hasn’t solved every problem.


Published: December 11, 2011
The state took over Newark schools in 1995, but with an influx of money, some parents and officials have begun to seek more local control.

"But the influx of money, and the attendant national spotlight, has galvanized a growing movement of parents, educators and elected officials who want the schools returned to local control 16 years after they were taken overamid low test scores, crumbling buildings and charges of mismanagement.
These critics say that the state has unilaterally imposed a controversial agenda — replacing principals, opening new schools, placing charter schools inside district buildings — dreamed up by outsiders and consultants who do not understand the needs of their children, and that there is not enough opportunity for input by parents and community-based advocates."


Why Are the Rich So Interested in Public-School Reform?

They want to remake America's students in their own high-achieving image, but they're overlooking socioeconomics

Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2011/12/09/why-are-the-rich-so-interested-in-public-school-reform/#ixzz1gKpIDsXz

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Side by Side: On Britain's School Wars (by Stefan Collini)

A review of 

Melissa Benn. 2011. The Battle for Britain's Education. London: Verso.


Published: December 5, 2011
A coherent vision for federal education policy starts not by micromanaging schools, but by focusing on the four functions Washington alone can perform.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Mayor leads attempt at community-driven plan for KC schools - KansasCity.com

The District Advisory Committee, made up of parents and community members, has said it wants the state to work with the current board still intact. The teachers union and the NAACP also want to keep the elected board.
Groups that have called for an appointed administrative board include the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City and the Mattie Rhodes Center.
The Urban Summit, an umbrella group of Kansas City organizations, joined in support of an appointed board and recommended people for the panel: Attorney Clinton Adams Jr., Urban League President Gwen Grant, the Rev. Wallace S. Hartsfield II and the Rev. Sam Mann. The group's memo to Nicastro also recommended that someone be appointed from the Latino community.


Drawing the Line on Parental Involvement

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Report Finds Chicago Charter Schools Struggling
(By Joel Hood and Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Chicago Tribune)"Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other city leaders have long heralded charter schools' innovative approach to education, but new research suggests many charters in Chicago are performing no better than traditional neighborhood schools and some are actually doing much worse.More than two dozen schools in some of the city's most prominent and largest charter networks, including the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO), Chicago International Charter Schools, University of Chicago and LEARN, scored well short of district averages on key standardized tests.In two of the city's oldest charter networks, Perspectives and Aspira, only one school—Perspectives' IIT Math & Science Academy—surpassed CPS' average on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, taken by elementary schoolers, or the Prairie State Achievement Examination, used in high schools.At Shabazz International's DuSable Leadership high school on the South Side, just 7 percent of students met state standards on the PSAE. A few miles south, nine out of every 10 students at CICS' Hawkins high school missed the state benchmark.The dismal numbers are part of a new set of school report cards the state is releasing to the public Wednesday, results sure to reignite the debate over education reform one day before Chicago Public Schools is expected to release its long-awaited list of school closings for next year." (read more) 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

St. Louis Public Schools, workers OK contract

St. Louis Public Schools, workers OK contract


From the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown U.:

"As interest in parent organizing and engagement grows across the country, AISR's Keith Catone and UCLA IDEA's John Rogers contrast genuine grassroots parent power to impact education reform with the "Astroturf" version recently presented by Bruno Manno."

See Keith Catone and John Rogers' critique of "Bruno Manno’s “Straw Mom” Argument"

Here's Bruno Manno's original: "Not Your Mother's PTA"

Billionaires for Education Reform

Billionaires for Education Reform (Diane Ravitch)

Monday, November 14, 2011


Published: November 12, 2011
Chicago Public Schools teachers will soon be evaluated based partly on how well their students are doing academically. Many fear they will face dismissal if the standards are not applied fairly.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Published: November 6, 2011
Winning a Race to the Top grant brought unexpected consequences for the state’s schools in the form of hastily introduced rules on teacher evaluations.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

ST LOUIS SCHOOLS WATCH - NOV 1, 2011 (slswatch@yahoo.com)

St. Louis Schools Watch

SAB Approves Labor Contract In Spite Of Teachers' Objections
By Susan Turk
St. Louis--October 11, 2011-- Local 420 President Mary Armstrong addressed the Special Administrative Board during the public comments segment at their Tuesday, October 11 meeting. She reported that on Sunday, October 9, AFT Local 420 members voted to reject the last and final policy statement, aka contract, they and Dr. Adams offered.   The members then voted unanimously to ask the SAB to submit contract negotiations to federal mediation.   Approximately 100 Local 420 members stood in solidarity while she spoke.
Armstrong continued by listing the numerous projects on which Local 420 had collaborated with district administration since the SAB was appointed to improve the SLPS; among them developing a plan for evaluating and mentoring probationary teachers and the expansion of pre-k classrooms.   She reminded the SAB that the last policy statement to which 420 agreed in 2008 included sacrifices on the part of teachers and staff; no raises and several furlough days each year to help the fiscal situation.  
She said, "We must be treated with respect and that respect includes just and fair compensation….the district's policy agreement has loopholes big enough to drive a school bus through."   She said they "found irregularities in the the board's adopted budget, specifically that there were 1670 teachers last year and 1666 teachers this year, only 4 less, but a $4.5 million difference in the budget for them."   She noted that during the negotiations she asked questions about this and was told she would get answers.  The questions were never answered, however. They were given a last and final offer as an ultimatum instead.  
"We advocate for this district", she said, "and we deserve just and fair compensation."   She noted that there had been no increase in the money budgeted for classrooms since 2003 and that, "We haven't complained and we have done everything asked of us to move this district towards accreditation.   It's time that those who do the work in the classroom be justly compensated."   She added that they want a third impartial party, a federal mediator, to assess the actual revenues and expenses in this budget because, "Right now we don't trust your figures, we don't trust your numbers and we don't trust that you'll treat us right."
Armstrong was followed by teachers from three different schools. Nancy Fraley from Mallinckrodt Academy said that, "Relying on teachers to do the right thing without just compensation was almost equal to abuse."   Fraley said she had only had one 3% raise in the 7 years she has worked for the SLPS. As we all know, the cost of living has risen far more than 3% during the past 7 years. She noted that some teachers are sharing housing and driving 15 year old cars to get by.   She said that given her own expenses, she could not balance her checking account on her salary.   She asked the SAB to, "do the right thing so we can live on what we're given."
Jim Heger, a 12 year veteran from Ashland Elementary School told them to keep the meager 2% raises they were offering in the contract and give Ashland back a safety officer.   Without a school safety officer, the principal is relegated to breaking up fights.   Heger reported that the neighborhood surrounding   Ashland is subject to frequent outbreaks of violence, including shootings, and that the students witness them.   He said that safety officers are needed in schools in high risk areas to create, "a palpable sense of security   that would make the teachers and children feel safer."
(It is worth note that neighborhood violence has impacted Ashland's staff during the past 2 years. Two employees have been robbed on the parking lot, the cafeteria worker and a teaching assistant.  A bullet shattered one of the music teacher's car windows during the school day.   License plate tags have been stolen from 3 different cars. So, the removal of safety officers from the elementary schools has affected the school environment.)
The last teacher to speak was Abnash Nishi Coday, a 17 year veteran from Mullanphy Investigative Learning Center.   She reminded us that teachers are there early and stay late, sometimes until 9 p.m., writing up IEPs, that they are dedicated to doing what's right.   "I am frugal", she said.   " At this point, I don't know how I am going to make it.   Everything's going up," and she mentioned food, gas, the sewer bill, utilities, and property taxes. " I honestly don't know where to go and I'm too tired to get a second job."   She asked for a raise and step movement.
With a salary of $225,000 per year, Dr. Adams is well insulated from the difficulties the teachers face trying to live on their salaries.  It should be noted that he was not given a raise to his base salary when his contract was renewed last February.
Just before the end of the meeting, the SAB voted unanimously to approve the policy statement. The vote was not listed on the meeting's consent agenda, making the decision to vote a hasty one. 
After the SAB vote, teachers were visibly upset.  Armstrong said they would hold meetings to decide how to respond, but she expected that the spirit of cooperation and collaboration that had typified the union's relationship with the administration would suffer.  Teachers might work to the letter of the contract, meaning doing nothing extra.
Because Missouri law provides for collective bargaining for public employees, there was hope expressed by some union members that they would be able to get the administration back to the negotiating table even though the three-year contract had been approved.  While under negotiations both parties are restricted from discussing the terms of the contract being negotiated; so union spokespeople were reluctant to discuss the sticking points.  It was learned that although some teachers were upset by the meager 2% raise, the disagreement was not so much over money as over the wording dealing with medical insurance benefits.  The previous policy statement had used the term "shall provide" when discussing medical insurance.  The newly approved one replaced that wording with "may provide", which could mean that the administration was reserving the right to stop paying for medical insurance at any time during the life of the contract.
Of course, the SAB, who are not accountable to anyone, can do as they please.   They don't have to worry about the wrath of voters who could replace them with board members sympathetic to the genuine needs of teachers and staff.   They can make decisions, which increase the stressful work environment in district schools, without consequence to themselves.  
25 members of Occupy St. Louis greeted teachers as they left the meeting with chants of "We Support Our Teachers" and applause.  A contingent from 420 participated in the October 14 Occupy St. Louis and Jobs for Justice march downtown.

Not the Usual Song and Dance
Given that there are only three members of the SAB which governs the SLPS, the way they conduct business if fairly routine. Seldom do they deviate from it.  The usual choreography, or orchestration, is for CEO, President and Chairman Rick Sullivan to ask for a motion, to pass the consent agenda, for instance, to which Vice President Melanie Adams responds, "So moved."   Member Richard Gaines then seconds the motion. 
But, something out of the ordinary happened at the October 11 meeting.  After the routine vote to approve consent agenda items, Sullivan said, "I have one additional motion. The motion is to approve the 2011-2014 policy statement for the AFT Local 420, the teachers, secretaries, clerical and para-professional   employees... This labor (agreement) also includes a 2 %   salary increase. I'm making a request for a motion to approve that resolution."
His request was followed by a prolonged silence. As the silence persisted. Sullivan looked at Adams but, she remained mute.  Finally, silently, she shook her head from side to side, signaling that she would not fulfill her usual role as motion maker.
Gaines then filled in with, "So Moved."  The motion was not seconded.
Sullivan then asked for, "Comments" and "Discussion."   Hearing no questions or comments the vote was called and the three members of the SAB voted to approve the motion 3-0. 
Afterward, some shocked union members speculated hopefully that the vote was illegal because the motion had not been seconded. In accordance with standard practice, if a motion is not seconded, it would normally not be discussed or voted on.  
The SAB conducts its meetings in accordance with Roberts' Rules of Order, which are based on the procedures which govern the British Parliament. This reporter consulted a handy copy.
"As a general rule,…every motion should be seconded.   This is to prevent time being consumed in considering a question that only one person favors,…Where the chair is certain the motion meets with general favor, and yet members are slow about seconding it, he may proceed without waiting for a second.   Yet anyone may make a point of order that the motion has not been seconded, and then the chair is obliged to proceed formally and call for a second." (Robert's Rules Of Order Revised, 1915, p.36)  
This being the SAB, and there being only three of them, requiring agreement between only two people to pass a motion, there is seldom mystery regarding the outcomes of votes.   So, apparently, seconds are unnecessary.
There was also grumbling about the resolution to approve the contract not being on the consent agenda.  When the board of education ran the district, they always set the consent agenda at a public administrative meeting held one week prior to their business meeting.  They did this so members could receive all materials concerning the items to be considered at least 5 days prior to having to vote to give them adequate time for review.  If items were added after the 5 day period, the board president and superintendent could postpone a vote.  If a matter was deemed to be an emergency item requiring a expeditious vote, a motion would be made to add the item to the evening's agenda for a vote.  This was done to prevent something being rushed through without giving members adequate time to study and think about what they were voting on.
For whatever reason, and even though Ms. Adams did not want to make the motion, the other two SAB members were ready to vote and pass the contract on the 11th. 
SAB members have been vocal in their criticism of the elected Board of Education.  SAB members have called it dysfunctional. Richard Gaines remarked that the board had "run amok" at a recent meeting.
No deliberative body is without its critics.  As far as the SAB is concerned, criticism could be levied about the unnecessary alacrity with which they pushed through a controversial vote.
Since Missouri state law gives public employees the right to collective bargaining, it is unusual for a governing body to impose a labor agreement.  During the negotiations three years ago for the prior policy statement, the union rejected the last best offer and the administration came back with another offer which was acceptable.  As a consequence, the hard ball response this year came as a shock.  Hope was expressed that the administration would return to the negotiating table even after the SAB's vote to approve but there is no incentive for them to do so.  At this point in time, the situation is unresolved.

Custodians Back In-House
After 8 years of being outsourced, SLPS custodians are being brought back in house. Unfortunately for them, they are being brought back in for the same reason they were outsourced, to save money. Where they were being paid $18/hour for 12 months of work, they will now be paid $14/hour for only 11 months of work, effectively cutting their pay from  approximately $37,000/year to about $26,000. The over the summer thorough cleaning they used to do will still be outsourced.
They were forced to reapply for their jobs,   but there are 34 fewer positions and they are not being credited towards their pensions for the years they worked for Sodexho and Aramark.   Instead of having a head custodian at every building, there will only be 16 head custodians throughout the district.   In the buildings without head custodians, their supervision will likely become an additional burden for the building principal.   There may only be 2 custodians assigned to schools which had 3 and their shifts may not coincide.   There may be only one in the building during school and one working after school.
So, if you notice that your school is not as clean as it used to be, understand that there may not be enough staff to keep it clean and that morale among the custodians is at an all-time low.  Grounds works will still be outsourced, though.
There was a time when being a custodian in the SLPS meant earning enough to support a family.  That no longer appears to be the case.  Consistent with the contract recently imposed on teachers, secretaries, clerical and para-professional employees, the quality of life for SLPS employees is eroding.  This will impact the atmosphere in our schools and the quality of education the children receive.
City voters have typically been generous to the SLPS, voting to pass every bond issue put to them in recent years.  Were citizens given a say in these decisions to squeeze district employees, it is questionable as to whether the community would support them. 
Given the impetus to improve academic achievementin order to regain accreditation, one wonders how the administration proposes to makes those gains with a stressed and aggravated work force.

Film Screening and Discussion of:
The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman
When: Sunday Nov. 6 at 3:00p.m.
Where: Gya Community Gallery ( 2700 Locust Ave., St. Louis )
Details Please join us for a film screening and discussion of "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman. This documentary points out what the movie "Waiting for Superman" does not- the complexity of issues surrounding educational reform. The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman showcases the perspectives of teachers engaged in the life of public schools and what is needed to provide quality education. This film includes the evidence that its predecessor leaves out- the number of failing charter schools, how charter schools exclude students, how charter schools are at the center of the efforts to privatize public education- and many other inconvenient truths. Join us for this event where we will watch and discuss the film and plan future actions.
This film was made by New York city teachers.  It is the antidote to "Waiting For Superman" and should be seen by everyone concerned about public schools.  The film includes interviews with parents.  If you cannot make the showing, the Watch has copies it will lend.  Contact us at sls_watch@yahoo.com

It's That Time Again
The Watch Advisory committee has informed the editor that it is time to remind our readership to renew their subscriptions.  Ideally, all of you would use the coupons at the bottom of each issue to renew your subscription annually without being asked.  However, not enough of our readers do that.  So, if you have not sent us a check for $12 during the past year, please do so now.  Although our expenses are kept to a minimum, there are production related expenses associated with the Watch. 

November 15, Tuesday, irregular bi-monthly SAB meeting, 6 p.m., 801 North 11th Street, room 108
November 15, Tuesday, regular monthly Board of Education meeting, 7 p.m., Carr Lane VPA Middle School, 1004 North Jefferson, enter from parking lot 

Please note, The Schools Watch has a new mailing address, P.O. Box 1983, St. Louis, MO 63118. Our email address continues to be SLS_Watch@yahoo.com

Questions for the Watch?
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Send them to SLS_Watch@yahoo.com
Please Subscribe to the SLS Watch.
If you have never subscribed because friends have forwarded The Watch to you, please consider subscribing now. Internet newsletter mailing and management services are not free. The Watch has always concentrated its efforts on getting you the news and analysis of the SLPS that you value rather than on keeping itself in the black. But in order to pay our bills, we do need your subscription. For a dollar a month, you will get news, opinion, and analysis that you won't see elsewhere in the media. Please write a check today.
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The St. Louis Schools Watch was founded on the premises that parental and community involvement are needed for good schools to flourish, and that public participation is a cornerstone of democracy. St. Louis Schools Watch offers information and analysis that we hope contributes to a public debate over what changes are necessary to improve St. Louis public schools and what works.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Groundbreaking for New Charter School

City Garden Montessori School - Mayor Slay will be there

Groundbreaking Ceremony & Block Party:
Thursday, November 3rd, 4-6:30pm
Intersection of Tower Grove Ave & McRee Ave

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rewriting the NCLB Law

Published: October 21, 2011
Anger over the Obama administration’s No Child Left Behind waiver plan prodded lawmakers to approve a bill that would greatly reduce Washington’s role in overseeing public schools.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

On Early Childhood Education

Published: October 19, 2011
Want to close the equality gap? Providing early childhood education would be a great place to start, and it might even pay for itself

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Vanity of Volunteerism

Because service is not simple.

''If we're going to insist on smaller government and lower taxes,'' says Sara Melendez at Independent Sector, ''then we're going to have to give more individually. But if what we're really saying is that we're giving as much as we can, that we're volunteering as much as we can, then we have a choice. We can either say, 'I don't care what happens to people in need,' or we can make sure that we have the government policies in place to pick up the slack.''

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mallinckrodt Academy

"St. Louis magnet school program breeding success"

St. Louis Post-Dispatch article

May be interesting to those looking at choices parents have in SLPS.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chilean students protest education reform

Photoessay on Chilean university student protests against education reform

Colombian Students Mobilize Against Education Reforms

Colombian Students Mobilize Against Education Reforms

Against government law to encourage profit motive in education.

St Louis on the Air, on Charters

October 11, 2011 Segment A A conversation about the role of charter schools in urban public education.

Guests William Carson Vice President and Director of Sustainability McCormack Baron Salazar Co-Chair of FOCUS St. Louis' In-Depth Look at St. Louis Public Charter Schools

Douglas Thaman Executive Director Missouri Charter Public School Association

William Tate Chair, Department of Education Washington University

 Related Information St. Louis Public Charter Schools: An In-Depth Look A report from FOCUS St. Louis PDF via FOCUS St. Louis

Monday, October 3, 2011

SLPS contracts in question - St. Louis American: Local News

SLPS contracts in question - St. Louis American: Local News: Longtime
St. Louis activist Bertha Gilkey-Bonds is one of the state’s
biggest advocates for charter schools, particularly in black

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Is it power to the states? Or recognition of national commitment?


Do we return power to the states to control education? Or do we restructure the role of the federal government to do something a bit distinct?

Pushing Back? From the top?


New Strategy for Charter School Movement: Parent Petitions, but..

Parents Struggle for Power to Reform Schools  (NYT)

SLPS Districts' MAP performance

Chart: Districts' MAP performance

From the St Louis Post-Dispatch

The Imagine Charter Schools story, from the Post-Dispatch, with graph

Sponsor threatens six Imagine charter schools with probation

Sponsor Threatens 6 Struggling St. Louis Charters With Probation

Sponsor Threatens 6 Struggling St. Louis Charters With Probation

Thursday, September 22, 2011

An older article on the Superman movie, by Jeanine Molloff


In her words:

A response to the film was written and published last September as the 'Superman' film held its 'debut.'  It is a stinging rebuttal of the film and the corporate people behind it.  The article cites sources and names names.  It was published in The Huffington Post on September 21, 2010.  The title is :
Waiting For Superman Is an Insult to True Educators.  The url is :  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeanine-molloff/waiting-for-superman-film_b_733094.html
I know the piece well as I am the author.  Please read and disseminate--you won't be sorry.
Jeanine Molloff

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Boy prepares for immersion charter school (Post-Dispatch)


Charter school is coming to St. Louis' Hyde Park neighborhood

Charter school is coming to St. Louis' Hyde Park neighborhood

Nonprofits building steam in Missouri, Illinois

Nonprofits building steam in Missouri, Illinois

Charter schools show inconsistent results

From the Post-Dispatch (August 2011)
Charter schools show inconsistent results

Kansas City School District Stripped of Accreditation

Similar histories unfolding in Kansas City. Kansas City Star, via the St Louis Beacon


The Impact of Cutting Social Security Cost of Living Adjustments on the Living Standards of the Elderly

The Impact of Cutting Social Security Cost of Living Adjustments on the Living Standards of the Elderly

While this proposal for Social Security is still under debate, it has been several years since St Louis retiree teachers have had a COLA (cost of living adjustment) from their pensions. From the point of view of some retirees, the COLA issue - along with related concerns over the work of the pension board - are central points of contention in school reform politics.

Screening of the "Truth Behind Waiting for Superman"

Waiting for "Superman" Community Forum | Missouri History Museum

Waiting for "Superman" Community Forum | Missouri History Museum

State: St. Louis schools get better grades, still need improvement

From the St Louis Post-Dispatch, a report on slow changes in SLPS accreditation status.

State: St. Louis schools get better grades, still need improvement