Wednesday, December 11, 2013

St. Louis County NAACP calls for Nicastro resignation - St. Louis American: Local News

St. Louis County NAACP calls for Nicastro resignation - St. Louis American: Local News: The St. Louis County Branch of the NAACP is outraged by the recent attempts made by Missouri Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro to force…

Friday, October 4, 2013

Parent Consultation and Participation under the SAB: How does it work?

A note on the practice and process of parent participation and consultation in regard to possible school closings, from Susan Turk based on notes from the meeting on October 2 at Roosevelt High School.

[Original event notice: October 2, Wednesday, community forum on the future of Mann and Shenandoah Schools, 6.p.m. to 8 p.m., Roosevelt H.S., 3230 Hartford Avenue. 63118, Parking available from the lot entrance on Compton Avenue.]

"I attended the meeting at Roosevelt HS tonight.  The company hired to facilitate the meetings and submit a report to the SAB is none other than Unicom.  People who participated in the public input meetings for the Danforth Freeman report may remember Unicom for the way they controlled the data they collected for that.  We couldn't talk at those meetings, just respond to their survey questions via clicker.

Anyway, this meeting was also tightly controlled.  They had everyone sit at small tables in the cafeteria.  Attendees could not choose their tables, Staff assigned us to tables as we entered.  We were only supposed to talk to the people at our table, not to the group as a whole.  There was a Powerpoint presentation and we were given worksheets to fill out as a table plus individual comment forms. They wanted input on 2 options, whether to raze Shenandoah and built a new school on its site or whether to renovate Shenandoah and build an addition to it.  They said Mann would close no matter what.  

There were a lot of residents from Tower Grove Heights at the meeting, Mann's service area.  Two of them objected to the meeting format, not being able to speak to the whole group and the lack of a third option which was mentioned in messages promoting the meeting.  The third option was to keep both schools ,open and renovate both of them.  One of them was a man  from my table.  Another was an older man from another table.  He started walking around to other tables and expressing his concerns.  The facilitators tried to stop him from doing that but he mentioned his wish for that  third option and other people in attendance expressed their agreement with him by applauding what he said.  The facilitators saw they had a rebellion of sorts on their hands and told us to write what we wanted on our work sheets.  We had to rate the 2 options and our table gave the lowest grade possible to their 2 options and wrote our wishes to keep both schools open and renovated.  I got the sense that other tables were doing the same thing.

There is going to be another meeting Saturday at 10.a.m. at Central/ Cleveland HS at Kingshighway and Arsenal.  It will be interesting to see if the meeting is run the same way and how the attendees react.  The meeting was over in about an hour.

The SAB is supposed to get Unicom's report at their Wednesday, October 9 meeting. It should be interesting. They may not like what they hear."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ravitch on Charters: Bad Idea, Missing the Point

Los Angeles has more charter schools than any other school district in the nation, and it's a very bad idea.
Billionaires like privately managed schools. Parents are lured with glittering promises of getting their kids a sure ticket to college. Politicians want to appear to be champions of "school reform" with charters. READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

DISTURBING NEWS ON DESE PLANS (via St Louis Schools Watch/Susan Turk)

St. Louis Schools Watch

The Writing on the Wall
By Susan Turk
October 1, 2013--St. Louis
In a unanimous vote of approval, the state board of education authorized the Department (DESE), "to move forward with the execution of the plan of action outlined in the long-term plan for unaccredited districts," during their August 20, 2013 meeting.   The motion was made by first congressional district representative to the state board Mike Jones by the way, St. Louis' own rep. The quote is from their minutes.   Just what does this mean?
According to a press release DESE issued later that day,
"Today the State Board of Education approved the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's recommendation of developing a plan to direct the transformation of failing school districts in the state. The Department issued an invitation for bid last month for comprehensive analyses of school system challenges in unaccredited districts with the aim of developing strategies that will deliver dramatic improvement in student performance.

The Department is considering options to address chronic under-performance in Kansas City, Riverview Gardens, Normandy and other struggling school districts in the state. To act effectively, the state needs an intensive, broad analysis of the school systems' challenges, focusing on contributing factors such as governance, educator quality, and operational practices and policies.
The Department issued an invitation for bid last month and has selected CEE-Trust (the Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust) to conduct the analysis in the Kansas City Public Schools. They will provide recommendations for state action to transform district policies, practices, systems, and governance (where deemed necessary) in ways that carry the potential to lead to dramatically improved student outcomes that are sustained over time. CEE-Trust is one of the nation's leading experts on city-focused education reform strategies, and leads a network of 33 independent education reform organizations in 26 cities across the country. Their work will include a review of the conditions that enable high performing urban schools in Missouri and across the country and will culminate in a report containing recommendations for the transformation of educational services for the children of Kansas City that can be adapted for other struggling districts across the state."

The report will be completed by January, 2014, just in time for the start of the 2014 Legislature. Recommendations from the report are expected to influence legislation. 

Guess who the CEE-Trust network member is in St. Louis?   None other than the mayor's office!   Now aren't you glad Francis Slay was re-elected in April?   In Kansas City, the Kaufman Foundation is the network member.  

One would be forgiven for wondering why the good people at DESE feel they need to leave the building to find expertise to do this.   Then again, given their track record; they couldn't fix the 600 student Wellston school district; looking elsewhere for expertise might be understandable.  The dilemma here is that CEE-Trust is not known for empirical research. They represent and promote a particular school of thought.

According to the Education Task Force of Metropolitan Congregations United, a coalition of 35 churches representing 10,000 members in St. Louis City and County, "CEE-Trust (The Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust) is a pro-charter and privatization group that has used pseudo-research in their studies throughout US cities to promote privatization takeovers in struggling school districts. Missouri State Commissioner of Education Dr. Chris Nicastro has recommended to the State Board of Education to hire this group to study Kansas City Public Schools, and the Board has done so. Findings from the study may also be used in Normandy and Riverview Gardens School Districts, and any other district that becomes unaccredited.

In cities in the U.S. where CEE-Trust has recommended reforms for struggling school districts, the following recommendations have been made:

Closing many traditional public schools.
Substantially increasing the emphasis on high-stakes standardized tests.
Dramatically expanding the number of charter schools.
Outsourcing management of public schools to outside organizations.
Reducing the labor protections for teachers and school staff.
Reducing costs by hiring teachers with less experience or without certification.
Having schools compete against each other like businesses, with the lowest performers being closed.

Metropolitan Congregations United/Gamaliel of the Heartland is opposed to this study and these recommendations. We support community based schools, because they make our communities strong We support local control of our public schools so that parents and community members will have a voice in their children's education ." (cited from the flyer MCU members handed out at the House Interim Education Committee hearing at SLCC-Meramec on September 23, 2013)

MCU is considering doing their own study to counter the predictable cookie cutter findings they expect from CEE-Trust.

The state board of ed's decision to hire CEE-Trust hardly seems wise.   Doesn't Kansas City have enough charter schools already?   It appears DESE has been completely taken over by the disciples of Michelle Rhee.

After a meeting with the St. Louis Board of Education, earlier on September 23rd, Nicastro was asked by MCU City Organizer Brittini Gray about why DESE staff recommended the CEE-Trust for this assignment. Nicastro indicated that CEE-Trust won out over other applicants because of their inclusion of governance recommendations in the report they would produce.   Shades of Danforth Freeman!   Two of the charges of the Final Report of the Special Advisory Committee on St. Louis Public Schools issued on December 17, 2006 were to "review issues" and "clarify concerns" regarding governance for the SLPS.   Consequently, a thorough national analysis of school governance models was included in the report and is now gathering dust on many shelves. Perhaps it is being ignored at this time because it concluded that governance of the SLPS should be returned to the elected board of education? The Special Advisory (Danforth Freeman) Committee only addressed St. Louis, however, so one could be charitable towards the state board and surmise that a study addressing Kansas City and other struggling districts, one of which might be St. Louis, but we aren't saying, wink, wink, nod, nod, might yield different results.

According to the CEE Trust's website (cee-trust.orgCEE-Trust is a network of city-based foundations, non-profits and mayor's offices that work together to support education innovation and reform. Founded in 2010 by The Mind Trust, they currently have 32 members and affiliates working in cities across the United States. The Mind Trust is an Indianapolis based non-profit focusing on reforming the Indianapolis public schools. Former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson and an advisor, David Harris founded The Mind Trust in 2006 to support their charter school expansion and school reform efforts.   They serve as a charter school incubator and provide grants for charter schools and education entrepreneurs.    According to the Mind Trust's website, " We gather the full CEE-Trust network annually and lead smaller working groups on topics like supporting the launch of excellent charter schools; developing innovative school models; and reforming school governance. Through our various gatherings, we share lessons learned, foster communication, document best practices, and help cities improve their efforts to drive the education reform agenda forward."

CEE Trust is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.   Their executive director is Ethan Gray.
In a July 17, 2013 article about Gray in Andy Smarick's By the Company It Keeps blog, Gray said, "We're not a charter school organization, or a blended learning organization, or a governance reform organization, but we think any strong harbormaster should have strategies dedicated to creating a vibrant charter sector, fostering blended learning pilots, and transforming outdated governance models.   Further along in the article Smarick asks Gray,
"You know my thesis: Urban districts are broken, can't be fixed, and must be replaced. What do you think?"  
Gray replies,
"I think you're probably right. No big urban district anywhere is living up to its mission. There are a lot of really, really smart people who have tried to fix districts. There are a lot of really, really smart funders who have invested in fixing districts. And there are a lot of talented educators who have given their hearts and souls to their kids in urban districts. I think we need to agree that it's not the people; it's the system.
No offense to our members or funders who work closely with districts, but districts don't seem to create the conditions system wide that great schools need to thrive. ...I still think we need … to help education leaders plan for a future with a different district structure that's capable of delivering better results."
Later Gray adds,
"When I was vice-president of The Mind Trust I worked intensively on the "Opportunity Schools" plan for transforming Indianapolis Public Schools. As part of that project, The Mind Trust and its partners at Public Impact looked at high-performing urban schools nationally and identified a few core conditions that seemed necessary to their success. These conditions were autonomy (over staffing, curriculum, culture, calendar, etc), accountability, and choice. Districts aren't really designed to give individual schools full autonomy, nor are they staffed to serve as authorizers, nor do most districts provide full school choice to their families. With CEE-Trust's focus on helping city harbormasters create the optimal conditions for great schools, we plan on continuing to focus on school governance and district transformation as a long-term change strategy."
Smarick, by the way, is a senior policy fellow at the conservative non-profit education policy think tank, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which is identified as a "policy partner" by the CEE-Trust. So, these astroturf groups wash each others hands to sanitize their so-called expertise.

CEE-Trust is currently engaging in Philadelphia. They are hosting a two day conference September 30 and October 1, 2013 titled, All of the Above: How Donors can Expand a City's Great Schools. According to an article by Tamara Anderson in the September 30, 2013 Philadelphia Examiner, a group of high school students from the Philadelphia Student Union along with educators and advocates for public education held a demonstration outside of the conference.

"None of the attendees represented the School District of Philadelphia and its students or employees. It is as if the 149,000 faces of the SDP are invisible and worst, unimportant. In fact, attendance is restricted to those who contributed at least $50,000 in charitable contributions. One attendee politely informed me on the steps that, "Teach for America teachers are the only teachers that really teach."

According to Will Bunch in the Philadelphia Daily News' September 30, 2013Attytood Blog,

"Millionaire vultures" are "in Philly to pick over carcass of public education".
Bunch writes, "I guess we should be flattered that so many rich folks so suddenly care so much about the education of poor and working-class kids here in Philadelphia, which has the highest rates of deep poverty in the nation. But unfortunately, too many of these folks are involved in the corporate education reform movement are in it a) because they're Cato Institute libertarian crack pots who think that the "free market" that made them billionaires can save urban school kids despite research that shows no such thing b) they're hucksters who want to get richer through corrupt charter schools or companies that profit on standardized testing or c) they want to crush unions, because that's what they do, never mind the studies showing the correlation between a strong labor movement and a more prosperous middle class."
And now, thanks to the spineless staff at DESE, the CEE-Trust is bringing their brand of education reform to Missouri.
The only reason an, albeit, enfeebled board of education even exists in St. Louis today is that 1,000 people turned out for a hearing at Harris Stowe State University in January, 2007 to demand that the board remain the authority governing the district . The requirement for holding that type of public hearing has since been stricken from state law as a result. If anyone still believes,absent massive citizen activism demanding it, that an elected board of education will ever be allowed to govern the SLPS again, I would advise you to read the proverbial writing on the wall.

October 2, Wednesday, community forum on the future of Mann and Shenandoah Schools, 6.p.m. to 8 p.m., Roosevelt H.S., 3230 Hartford Avenue. 63118, Parking available from the lot entrance on Compton Avenue.
October 5, Saturday, community forum on the future of Mann and Shenandoah Schools, 10 a.m. to Noon, Central VPA, Cleveland ROTC H.S., 3125 Kingshighway 63139. Parking lots are located on the south side of the school building accessible from Kemper Avenue.
October 8, Tuesday, regular monthly Board of Education meetingp.m.,Central VPA/Cleveland ROTC  3125 Kingshighway 63139. Parking lots are located on the south side of the school building accessible from Kemper Avenue.
October 9, Wednesday, irregular bi-monthly SAB meeting, 6 p.m., 801 North 11th Street, room 108.  Note: SAB meetings are subject to change of date and time at short notice. It is always advisable to check http://www.slps.org/ to verify when they are meeting.
October 24, Thursday,  irregular bi-monthly SAB meeting, 6 p.m., 801 North 11th Street, room 108.  Note: SAB meetings are subject to change of date and time at short notice. It is always advisable to check http://www.slps.org/ to verify when they are meeting.
October 26, Saturday, Board of Education Town Hall Meeting, Noon, Carpenter Branch, St. Louis Public Library, 3309 South Grand Blvd., 63118

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

Monday, September 16, 2013


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Friday, September 13, 2013

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rahm Emanuel's Minority-Bashing School Closings Go Forward | The Nation

Rahm Emanuel's Minority-Bashing School Closings Go Forward | The Nation

Charter Schools: Teachers, But Not to Last?

Given a real 'choice,' most parents would rather not send their children to a school staffed with teachers with such little experience, who, just as they might be in the process of developing into real educators, are looking to move on.  Much like the Peace Corps and global poverty, such a charter school teachers' 'youth movement' seems like a nice gesture by upwardly mobile young people, but not a solution to the real problems.

From the New York Times:

Charter networks are developing what amounts to a youth movement in which teaching for two to five years is seen as acceptable, even desirable.
"Charter school networks are developing what amounts to a youth movement in which teaching for two to five years is seen as acceptable and, at times, even desirable."  READ MORE

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Student transfer tuition could add millions to district budgets : News

Student transfer tuition could add millions to district budgets : News

In other words, poor struggling districts are transferring money to better-off districts.  And what of those students who will stay behind?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Critical Assessment of Teach for America - Chicago

from Kenzo Shibata, Jacobin magazine:

"TFA is in crisis mode. With the organization losing true believers within its rank-and-file, it doubled down on recruitment and doubled down on marketing. It’s just a shame that none of this has anything to do with improving teaching and learning.

Teach for America has come under heavy scrutiny in recent months. The organization was imagined over twenty years ago by Princeton undergraduate Wendy Kopp to combat the teacher shortage in urban and rural communities. TFA was to bring recent graduates from elite universities to teach in needy schools.
The idea was pretty simple. TFA was not better for students; it was better than nothing. Providing staff in these schools alleviated overcrowding and research shows that class size does matter in a child’s education.
Twenty years later, school districts are firing huge swaths of educators due to budget cuts. These dedicated teachers lose their jobs through no fault of their own, but find themselves competing for a dwindling number of open teaching slots. One would think that at this point, TFA is no longer necessary. We have a surplus of teachers and until politicians make education a priority and fund more teaching positions, this trend will continue...."
- See more at: http://jacobinmag.com/2013/07/teach-for-america-mission/#sthash.GiNQQMiJ.dpuf


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tab for student transfers almost $23 million for Normandy, Riverview Gardens : News

Tab for student transfers almost $23 million for Normandy, Riverview Gardens : News

School transfer issue spawns logistical headaches and legal questions : News

School transfer issue spawns logistical headaches and legal questions : News

Kirkwood shares support, concerns about transfers : News

Kirkwood shares support, concerns about transfers : News

No shortage of legal advice for families denied school transfers : News

No shortage of legal advice for families denied school transfers : News

Francis Howell opens its doors to Normandy transfer students : News

Francis Howell opens its doors to Normandy transfer students : News

At first day in Riverview Gardens, students show up to cheers : News

At first day in Riverview Gardens, students show up to cheers : News

Nixon rallies educators and community leaders in fight against income tax cut : News

Nixon rallies educators and community leaders in fight against income tax cut : News

Guest opinion: Missouri doesn't spend enough on its public schools : Stltoday

Guest opinion: Missouri doesn't spend enough on its public schools : Stltoday

Carl Peterson, in the Post-Dispatch

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Re: KIPP's Report Cards: KIPP expelling students before test time

In Nashville, along with other charter schools -- KIPP appears to be dumping weaker students just before test-time to boost their scores.  Might this be happening in St. Louis?

Charter schools losing struggling students to zoned schools - WSMV Channel 4

The reporter in Nashville concludes:  "The two types of schools are playing by different rules."

And see our post on St. Louis KIPP from a few days ago here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Philadelphia, starting to look like Santiago, Chile....

Students mobilizing to protest attacks on their schools.
From the Youtube site:
Thousands of students walked out of class Friday May 17th to say no to drastic budget cuts that will eliminate extracurriculars, nurses, support staff and other programs in schools. They marched from the Phila. School District Headquarters at 440 N. Broad street to City Hall, closing down traffic for the afternoon hours.

Monday, May 20, 2013

STL BEACON: Enthusiastic article on KIPP, but...

...read the article critically and check the results closely.  KIPP is only as good or better than SLPS (which is admittedly struggling) in some MAP scores. KIPP is still below (sometimes well below) Missouri average in most. In most cases less (sometimes significantly less) than 50% of KIPP students are scoring proficient in any field.  KIPP matches Missouri averages only in fifth grade science.  Whether or not this is a model for improving education for any, let alone, all students in St. Louis is still an open question. However, the article reads as if it is promotional material for KIPP, which plans to open another school in St. Louis in 2014 (and four more in the future). For article and image, see: https://www.stlbeacon.org/#!/content/30931/kipp_school_graduates_051513

Looking over KIPP's own St. Louis report card for the 2011-2012 norm referenced test for measuring year-to-year academic progress we see that students were tested first in fifth grade, then performed slightly worse in sixth grade (in reading and math), and improved again in seventh. Data are not offered for science in sixth and seventh grades.  With missing data we presume that they fared worse? Or were not tested?

Now that I'm curious, I explore the national KIPP report card further -- see: http://www.kipp.org/reportcard to pick any city you want.  Kansas City KIPP is faring worse than STL KIPP. There KIPP is failing to match struggling public schools across many grades, topping them only at three points. Like St. Louis KIPP, they are still well below state averages (and Missouri averages, nation-wide, remember, are in the lower half of all states across the nation). Curiously again, data are not provided for 6th and 7th Science in KC, which gives only 5th and 8th.  When data are missing, one wonders why. See:

As with other charters, one might expect that schools untethered from the burdens of teachers' unions and public school bureaucracies, with parents who have exercised their own initiative and choice to attend, the ability to expel or exclude students who present difficult challenges, with motivated teachers free to experiment with the best pedagogical models, leaders who are energetic and qualified, competing with public schools in dire shape, and doing all of this with public money and significant corporate financial and university support, would be posting much clearer and convincing signs of success than this article and the report card illustrate.

Nat'l Council of Teachers of Math: Excellent Speech on Education and (In)equality

Excellent, reasoned, data-driven critique of the corporate reform/high-stakes testing/attack the teacher model currently being proposed across the country.

As Diane Ravitch commented on her blog, which also posted this, "Pay particular attention to his evidence about the effects of charter schools."  And consider as well the core issue: child poverty.

See some good figures on how poverty shapes educational outcomes in his slides, available at:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New Book: The Changing Politics of Education: Privatization and The Dispossessed Lives Left Behind (Fabricant and Fine)

A study that illustrates many issues related to school reform in St. Louis and Missouri:

The Changing Politics of Education: Privatization and the Dispossessed Lives Left Behind
Michael Fabricant & Michelle Fine (Paradigm, 2013)


The authors persuasively argue that the present cascade of reforms to public education is a consequence of a larger intention to shrink government. The startling result is that more of public education’s assets and resources are moving to the private sector and to the prison industrial complex. Drawing on various forms of evidence—structural, economic, narrative, and youth-generated participatory research—the authors reveal new structures and circuits of dispossession and privilege that amount to a clear failure of present policy. Policymaking is at war with the interests of the vast majority of citizens, and especially with urban youth of color. In the final chapter the authors explore democratic principles and offer examples essential to mobilizing, in solidarity with educators, youth, communities, labor, and allied social movements, the kind of power necessary to contest the present direction of public education reform.
This is one of those very rare books on public education and social dispossession that bursts the bounds of its brilliant scholarship and explodes into a soaring call for action. Fine and Fabricant carefully dissect the ideological attack upon the public schools, the selling off of public services to the private sector, the marginalization of professional teachers, and the relegation of low-income students to the status of expendables. But the genius of this book lies in its recognition that disinvestment in the public schools and their replacement by selective boutique institutions are serving the purpose for which they were intended: mightily expanding the inequalities of wealth, darkening the futures of the dispossessed, and cannibalizing what remains of democratic spirit in a corporate society. The book ends with strong proposals -- “direct action” and “the reinvention of the work of unions,” among other bold suggestions that are seldom heard from academic authors in this era of retrenchment. The book has an electrifying tone. It creates a sense of urgency. I’m profoundly grateful to the authors.
--Jonathan Kozol


Thursday, May 2, 2013

ONLINE SCHOOLING: Making us better or worse?

Nation’s Online Elementary and Secondary Schools Expand Rapidly, But Academic Performance Lags Behind Other Public Schools, New Report Finds | National Education Policy Center

Boulder, Colo. (May 2, 2013) -- A national study, released today by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), offers a comprehensive review of 311 virtual schools operating in the United States. It finds serious and systemic problems with the nation’s full-time cyber schools.
University of Colorado, Boulder Professor Alex Molnar, who edited Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2013: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence, summed it up this way: “Even a cursory review of virtual schooling in the U.S. reveals an environment much like the legendary wild west. There are outsized claims, lagging performance, intense conflicts, lots of taxpayer money at stake, and very little solid evidence to justify the rapid expansion of virtual schools.”

READ MORE: http://nepc.colorado.edu/newsletter/2013/05/virtual-schools-annual-2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

New NEPC Report: Reviews Claims on Benefits of Mayoral Governance

From the National Education Policy Center:

"Claims on Mayoral Governance Don't Stand up to Scrutiny"


William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Katrina E. Bulkley, (973) 655-5189, bulkleyk@mail.montclair.edu

URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/bwyrk3h

BOULDER, CO (April 23, 2013) – A recent Center for American Progress report purports to find that school districts led by city mayors are raising student achievement while improving the districts’ fiscal health. A new review finds some useful information in the report, but says it is too flawed to rely on for policy guidance.

The report, Mayoral Governance and Student Achievement: How Mayor-Led Districts are Improving School and Student Performance, by Kenneth K. Wong and Francis X. Shen, was reviewed for the Think Twice think tank review project by Katrina E. Bulkley, Professor of Educational Leadership at Montclair State University. Her review is published today by the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education....
READ MORE AT: http://tinyurl.com/bwyrk3h