Good Luck!

Posted: January 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

I saw a post in the Baltimore Sun today about how Baltimore City Schools CEO Andres Alonso wants to allow 5th graders to choose their middle school. He states that “Poor, urban parents should not be imprisoned by their geography and only have a choice of poor schools.” So now instead of having students go to their local school, it’s like putting them all in a big pot and swirling the stew of children. I guess the students whose parents aren’t advocating for them are out of luck; they’re left to underachieve at the local neighborhood school.

I don’t understand why the effort isn’t placed on improving ALL of the schools. Basically, what Alonso is saying to parents is, I understand that your local school sucks, so I’m giving you the opportunity to enroll your child into a school that sucks a little less.

I thought this was a fitting picture to go along with the article:

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Comments
  1. Jerry says:

    Man!!!!!!!! Are you INSIGHTFUL!!!! It’s about time that people start to see this man for just what he is.
    The song in “Chicago” that most parallels Alonso and his “changes” and “initiatives” is “Give ‘Em the Old Razzle Dazzle, Razzle Dazzle-Um”. He’s done that to great fanfare as he shamelessly promotes himself. THANK YOU for seeing through it.

  2. I agree with this post and school closings came to mind when I read this post.

    From my understanding Baltimore City will be closing more schools this year and what I’m trying to understand is, what are they going to do with the abandoned schools? Will they be providing training workshops for teachers who will then be unemployed? Will they be developing a new plan for re-launching the schools that they are shutting down?

    I think the answer is not shutting schools down but re-building them and of course that takes time. What’s going to happen when the have closed down all the schools they can and the schools where they are transferring students to get overcrowded and are no longer effective?

    This is an issue worth fighting for.

  3. ThePrisoner says:

    Sorry to disappoint you, but you can’t fix public education. Why? you may ask. Well, there is a fundamental flaw with it. Public education is funded through theft. Individuals are taxed on the property they supposedly own and forced to pay for it. There is no market response. If those individuals, who are being forced to pay for public education at the point of a gun, don’t like the job the administrators and teachers are doing, there’s nothing they can do about it. They’ll have to pay those same taxes again next year. In a free market education system, if I didn’t like the job the school I was paying for was doing, i’d pull my child from that school and send him to another one. Jurisdiction be dammed! The money I saved from not paying for property taxes could go to paying for a private school of my choosing and what I could afford to pay. Which would easily beat the system we have today that is forced down our throats by our government aggressors! So sorry, but there’s nothing you can do to fix public schools. Be prepared to waste your time with bureaucrats and red tape who don’t have any need to answer to you or anyone else who is affected by bad public policy. That’s why pretty much all politicians send their kids to private school.

  4. Reading for Understanding says:

    I think you need to read these news stories a bit more closely. That, or we need to have a discussion about your reading comprehension skills. The Expanding Great Options plan has multiple components – closing failed schools, opening up new/better programmatic school options, moving to middle school choice, expanding currently successful programs into larger facilities, and expanding pre-k across the city.

    I’m confused as to how closing a failed school program (say Chinquapin MS) and replacing that school program with another that has demonstrated prior successes, Baltimore IT Academy (operator run best charter school in Anne Arundel County), in any way ignores neighborhood schools? Middle school choice is just one facet of a portfolio of reforms. Moreover, this is the second year of the Expanding Great Options strategy, as The Sun rightly points out. Over the past two years, City Schools has opened 11 transformation schools that demonstrate dramatically better achievement results than the schools they’ve replaced.

    Next time you pass judgment on school reform in Baltimore, you should be sure to understand the full scope of the issue at hand.

  5. mdeducator81 says:

    Closing a failed school and starting fresh may work temporarily, but long-term results of this approach have not produced positive results (If I am wrong please direct me to findings that state otherwise).

    Also, as far as comprehension skills go (not to be rude, just mimicking your approach), you will see in my blog that I recognized the middle school choice (in fact, that’s the main topic of the blog). This blog post is not an overview of the entire Expanding Great Options plan. I am zooming in on one facet of the plan: the idea that all parents are competent enough to choose the best middle school for their child. Yes, many parents are competent, but many are not.

    Also, I don’t really believe that “achievement results” mean much. I teach remedial reading & writing. All of my students have high school diplomas or GEDs, yet they perform at middle school/early high school level. According to their diplomas, they “achieved” enough to receive a diploma, but if they are on middle school level, did they really “achieve” enough?

    One student asked me why we capitalize the titles of video games, since video games aren’t very important. Another student thought she was supposed to add -s to every noun to make it plural (womens, childs, etc.).

    I meet high school grads who absolutely hate reading. Two days ago a student told me he had only read three books his entire life.

    Closing schools and replacing them with “better” schools honestly doesn’t really impress me. I know there are great charter schools; students have compared them to private schools. I’m not saying that there aren’t amazing schools in Baltimore City.

    All I’m saying is that way too many students are STILL being left behind. How is it fair that some students have to go to inadequate schools, such as Frederick Douglass? Reformers of education can brag all they want, but while they are bragging, there are students at Frederick Douglass and many other schools who are failing and being neglected, and it is not their fault.

    I taught a student who had graduated from Frederick Douglass, and reading her writing was almost like deciphering another language.

    How can you defend that? I will continue to defend these students until I see a real solution that is working. That’s great that Baltimore City has opened 11 “transformation schools.” Students at 11 schools have the privilege of being “transformed.” What about everyone else?

  6. ConcernedParent says:

    As a concerned parent I believe that school choice is important. But we need to have more choices. What about online k-12 schools? We as parents should have the right to choose from that option as well.

  7. mdeducator81 says:

    Thanks for the responses by the way. I do see the good in recognizing failing schools and taking action to improve them. I think we all need to stay positive and focus on the kids rather than attacking each other. Hopefully we all have the good of the children at mind. Let’s not lose sight of that.

  8. Reading for Understanding says:

    My frustration stems from the unfair positioning of the initiative. City Schools central office staff are clearly making amazing strides in Baltimore City – faster and more effectively than those in other progressive districts (e.g., DC, Atlanta, San Diego, etc.).

    Here’s my other confusion… you bring up the Frederick Douglass student. What EGO II recommends is PRECISELY what you’re saying is needed, yet you seem hesitant about the initiative. This year, Dr. Alonso requested that federal school improvement dollars go specifically to Frederick Douglass because of the school’s failed results. The focus is on middle school this year, while last year’s focus was high school. There’s only so much money to go around, and school reform is zero-sum: what you give to one school must be taken from another. The goal of EGO is to focus on the district’s worst schools so that all ships may raise. More to the point, school choice addresses the precise problem of some students having to suffer from poor neighborhood schools. Choice permits students to cross the city to attend a program that most aligns with their interests. Further, the choice process infuses “market demand” concepts where lower enrolled schools become highlighted as poor performers. On the whole, parents and students (even those you may believe are under-involved in students’ lives) make good decisions about education. Last year, 97% of 8th grade students exercised choice in for high school. That’s impressive.

    Here’s my other issue. You cannot look at middle school choice in a silo. It’s not. It’s partnered with so many other initiatives. Looking at one reform singularly creates a false reality. The reforms complement each other as a broad portfolio of reform.

    I’m sure that officials in Baltimore City would reform all schools immediately if they had access to unlimited dollars and unlimited resources. Because that’s a fantasy world, officials must focus reform strategically and employ strategic reforms to reach a critical mass.

    I’m not exactly sure where the disconnect is. My entire point above was that focusing on middle school choice singularly is unfair and inaccurate. Your post only focused on middle school choice. You replied to that assertion by again reaffirming your singular focus – the underlying premise of my frustration. I guess I don’t know how to explain in more detail.

    Lastly, but probably most importantly, “achievement results” mean standardized test results. Precisely because diplomas and grade promotion often are poor indicators of actual academic achievement, standardized tests provide a means of identifying problem schools and classrooms. As bad as many of No Child Left Behind’s initiatives may have been during the Act’s implementation, the reform process placed a spotlight on historic achievement gap problems among this country’s minority populations. Urban and highly-rural districts passed students along and graduated students without students’ have demonstrated common academic skills. The tests may have had negative externalities, but at least the tests provided the needed data to understand the scope of the achievement gap problem. Hence, I referenced “achievement results” (quantitative data) rather than promotion rates and/or diplomas earned (much more qualitative).

    Lastly, I’ll pull together an array of research that discusses the “turnaround” vs. “restart” approaches to school reform. While employing one strategy exclusively is never appropriate, there’s evidence to suggest that restart reforms often lead to longer lasting and sustainable achievement benefits. Always, individual school populations should dictate what’s most likely to succeed, but later today I’ll post links to papers that examine these issues better than I’d ever be able to explain.

    I agree with your assessment about respectfulness. I think tone didn’t come across as I intended. Glad you care about the issue. I was just trying to be direct.

    • mdeducator81 says:

      Reading for Understanding,

      Thanks for providing detailed descriptions of the Expanding Great Options plan. I definitely am not familiar with 100% of the plan, and can see your point that before making a judgment on one facet of the plan, it makes sense to familiarize oneself with the entire plan.

      I did read that Frederick Douglass is one of the schools that the city plans to focus on transforming. I’m still not convinced that the city’s proposals are the best ways to go about helping the kids. I’m having a difficult time jumping on board the whole “Race to the Top” game.

      I’m glad to see that Dr. Alonso is working diligently on reforming schools, and I give him much credit for that. I’m currently doing some research on the “Race to the Top” plan to see if there is something that I’m missing because for some reason, I am not at all convinced that this plan is steering us in the right direction.

      I also have a big problem with “high-stakes testing.” Standardized tests may provide a way for those in control to get an overview of which schools are producing higher test scores than others, but they do nothing to help teachers figure out where it is in instruction that the students are getting confused. Schools are so focused on presenting results to the “higher ups” that they are left with inadequate time and measures to address individual student needs. Here are just a few interesting quotes that I have been posting on my Twitter account in regards to standardized tests:

      [If NCLB continues] rich kids will study philosophy & art, music & history, while their poor peers fill in bubbles on test sheets – Berliner

      History, social studies, civics, geography, art/music,foreign language often not focus of high-stakes tests so have been abridged or dropped

      Due to high stakes testing, teacher says “Our curriculum is very unbalanced.”

      “Do not use incentives, resources, money, or recognition of test scores to reward or punish schools or teachers” International Reading Assoc

      Sometimes schools encourage low-achieving students to drop out of school altogether, all in the name of getting higher test scores

      “Most important is assessment that provides meaningful, usable feedback to students & engages them in self-evaluation”

      “Simply demanding higher scores, even with rewards and sanctions attached, will not do the job.” – Monty Neill

      States that did not have high-stakes graduation exams were more likely to improve average scores on NAEP than states that did (Neill 2001)

      “A large body of research demonstrates that high-stakes testing narrows curriculum & dumbs down instruction” – Monty Neill

      “Teachers and students should have a voice in what is taught & how this knowledge is eventually assessed” – FrankSerafini

      Inviting students to participate in the evaluation process does not leave them feeling like “passive recipients of some1 else’s evaluation”

      Any thoughts?

  9. Reading for Understanding says:

    Lots of thoughts, but more interested in your opinion about Race to the Top. You express concern. RTT is a huge progressive initiative for public education with lots of pieces. Which parts do you challenge:

    – States developing more robust data systems

    – Using student data to inform teacher and principal evaluations

    – Permitting schools to have school-based options (or rather allowing teachers and school leaders to agree on waiving from certain provisions of collective bargaining agreements)

    – Encouraging states to adopt common curriculum standards

    – Tracking whether students are career and college ready upon graduation

    – Revising state laws to allow for charter schools to function more effectively

    – Providing professional development to teachers on how to use student data to inform instruction effectively

    – Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they’re needed most

    – Turning around lowest-achieving schools

    – Ensuring effective distribution of successful teachers and school leaders

    – Making education reform a statewide priority

  10. Sarah says:

    I’m not sure I see the difference between this and how the Baltimore city high school system, though- it’s the same idea. Not saying it is right, but I can see how they got there.

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