"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More DFER, Duncan's Speech, and Green Dot Eyes DC

     DFER released yet another brief regarding the "Race to the Top" funds today, this one on the expansion of charter schools.  In "
Growing Innovative Charter Schools," the authors argue for eliminating the charter school cap, giving charters equal financial support, offering charters more facilities, and instituting some form of accountability for charter schools.  
     The charter cap must go, argues DFER.  But one way to "circumvent caps" would be to "reward states that institute a 'smart cap' mechanism so that proven successes can become super-charters capable of replication without taking up new chart school slots under a statutory cap."  In other words, nothing should prevent the expansion of charter school chains like KIPP, Green Dot, Aspire, etc.  As most educators note, there is a significant difference between the charter school chain movement and the localized, teacher-led, ground-up charter school idea.  DFER and their wealthy backers are not interested in the teacher-driven version; they favor the top-down model.
     One of the other "innovations" proposed by DFER (and echoed by Andrew Rotherham here) involves trading facilities space for test scores.  From DFER (p.4):
"Non-charter schools that provide space for expanding charters may include the charter school's test scores in their calculations of adequate yearly progress to meet state accountability objectives for annual growth."
DFER treats test scores as a tradable commodity - a commodity that can further spread charter chains.  And what if the charter school's test scores would bring down the AYP of the existing school?  I have no idea if this bargain has been tried in the past.  The "super-charter" idea proposed by DFER would benefit tremendously from this trade-off: the corporate charter movement desperately needs space - and those pesky public schools are occupying prime real estate.  
     The inequitable funding of charter schools must change as well, argues DFER.  But the charter school movement was predicated partly on the idea that they could do a better job for less money and fewer restrictions coming from the district/state/feds.  Charters are no longer a fringe idea that would give educators a chance to innovate; the innovation is now restricted to edu-entrepreneurs while teachers must teach to the new national standards created by Gates.  
Duncan's Speech:
     More of Duncan's "turnaround" propaganda.  His speech to the National Charter School Conference in Washington, DC (June 22nd) included more details about how states should go about the "turnaround" process.  One option for school "turnarounds:" close the school completely and allow the students to attend other schools.  Some "turnaround."  Plenty of other Duncan lies in the speech, including the "miracle" at Dodge - where only 20 of 336 student returned after Duncan closed the school for a year; only 12 students enrolled when the school closed in 2002 were still there in 2005.  More information from PURE Parents here (h/t to Mony Neil).
Green Dot:
     Edweek reports on Steve Barr's contact with Michelle Rhee and his desire to see Green Dot schools in the fed's backyard.  Barr would like to "create a model Arne can use" for other school turnarounds.

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