I need to mobilize and act in order to stay sane

After the outcome of this election, I’m pivoting and will be expanding my focus on racial and social justice across issues and not just BPS. The real work that makes a difference is at the local level but it requires work. If you are looking for ways to engage, join me. There are plenty of places that need support – time and money that will work to stop our country from moving backwards on all the progress we’ve worked to make a reality.

Start with this -it’s an easy ask – Call Councilor Wu and Flahrety and your district Councilor

Here is an explaination –

What is the Just-Cause Eviction Ordinance?

It’s a municipal law limiting evictions to certain circumstances and outlaw no-fault evictions. Massachusetts law allows landlords to evict tenants “no-fault.” This means that renters in privately owned, non-subsidized housing can be evicted after their lease expires – or any time, if they don’t have a lease – without any reason given. With a Just-Cause Eviction law, landlords who are not owner-occupants would have to give legitimate reasons for eviction.

The ordinance was developed by the Right to Remain Coalition. It is supported by a comprehensive network of non-profit organizations including labor, neighborhood groups, and community development corporations who have been asking the Council to act since March. Tenants are being displaced all over the city. Now is the time for action: the City Council needs to hear why this matters to YOU. Want to learn more? Visit the Just Cause website for more information. See the reverse side for more information on the ight to Remain Coalition and a full list of members.

Who do I call?

To find your district and councilor, click here. You can also call the four at-large councilors that serve the entire city.

AT LARGE: Michelle Wu, 617-635-3115 DISTRICT 4: Andrea Campbell, 617-635-3131

AT LARGE: Michael Flaherty, 617-635-4205 DISTRICT 5: Timothy McCarthy, 617-635-4210

AT LARGE: Annisa Essaibi-George, 617-635-4376 DISTRICT 6: Matt O’Malley, 617-635-4220

AT LARGE: Ayanna Pressley, 617-635-4217 DISTRICT 7: Tito Jackson, 617-635-3510

DISTRICT 1: Sal Lamattina, 617-635-3200 DISTRICT 8: Josh Zakim, 617-635-4225

DISTRICT 2: Bill Linehan, 617-635-3203 DISTRICT 9: Mark Ciommo, 617-635-3113

DISTRICT 3: Frank Baker, 617-635-3455

What do I say?

JUST CAUSE EVICTION

Why Boston Needs it NOW

Suggested Script

“This is [your name] from [your neighborhood]. I’m calling to urge you to come out now in favor of the proposed Just-Cause ordinance and, working with your colleagues, get it introduced and passed as soon as possible. Boston should pass Just-Cause Eviction so tenants and homeowners have protections and continue to work with the Right to Remain Coalition and neighborhood groups on this issue.”

Additional Talking Points

• We want real solutions for stabilizing the rent in Boston, so that city can maintain its rich socioeconomic, cultural, and racial diversity.

• We need acountability for developers who are flipping our neighborhoods with no-fault evictions and increasing rents.

I don’t live in Boston. How can I help?

If you do not live in Boston, you can show your support for Just-Cause Eviction by signing the petition to Mayor Walsh and the City Council, signing up for updates from the Right to Remain Coalition, a coalition housing right advocates dedicated to stabilizing Boston’s neighborhoods by protecting tenants from eviction by absentee landlords/banks without just cause. Perhaps most importantly, you can tell your friends and family about this cause and why it matters to you, and how they can help move it forward.

Why can’t I just send an email in support of Just-Cause Eviction?

A Councilor likely receives far more emails than they do phone calls, so a phone call carries more weight and demonstrates a greater level of importance than an email. Councilor’s offices log the total number of people who call in favor of or in opposition to a particular issue, which is why calling is an effective method of directing a Councilor’s attention to a cause.

Thank you for calling and giving your time to this important cause.

What is the Right to Remain Coalition?

Right to Remain is a growing popular movement demanding neighborhood stabilization and our Right to Remain in Boston. Our citywide coalition of groups and organizations is fighting displacement and gentrification at the neighborhood level, anchored by Right to the City Boston and the Boston Tenant Coalition. Right to Remain calls for multiple stabilization policy and advocacy strategies that increase tenant rights and protections; demand community control over land/development; address wealth building in our communities; and make speculators pay for the social and economic costs they create.

Who is the R2R (Right to Remain) Coalition?

Anchored by Right to the City Boston in partnership with Boston Tenant Coalition, ABDC, Action for Regional Equity, Allston Brighton CDC, Asian American Resource Workshop, Asian Community Development Corp, Black Economic Justice Institute, Boston Jobs Coalition, Brazilian Worker Center, Castle Square Tenants Organization, Chelsea Collaborative, Chinatown Resident Association, Codman Square NDC, Community Labor United, Dominican Development Center, Dorchester Bay EDC, Dorchester People for Peace, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Egleston Sq. Youth Group, Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston, Fairmount Indigo Line CDC Collaborative, Fenway Community Development Corp., Greater Boston Labor Council, Greater Bowdoin/Geneva Neighborhood Association, Greater Four Corners Action, Homes for Families, JP Neighborhood Council, JP Neighborhood Development Corp, Jamaica Plain Progressives, Jobs with Justice, MA CDC, Mass Vote, Matahari, Mattapan United, Progressive Communicators Network, Progressive Mass, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, SEIU 32BJ (District 615), Union of Minority Neighborhoods

Question 2 – A charter parent, former charter teacher and current BPS teacher explains her vote

This was originally posted on a Boston parent listserv. I asked to share it and the author agreed.  This is not my story to tell.

Originally posted by Mary Dibinga

________________________________________________________________

I’m going to give my perspective. I think it’s important to preface by saying that I’m a BPS exam school teacher and a black woman, and mother to a charter school student–I feel all of those factors have relevance to my position. I’ll also say that I’m an English teacher, so I apologize that much of what I say is explained more anecdotally than in hard data, so I’ll leave it to others to be ready with the numbers.

What makes Question 2 somewhat easier for me than the rest of the charter debate is that the question itself is narrow: it is not a referendum on whether charters should exist or whether they are good schools, but solely on whether the cap that limits their expansion should be lifted to allow up to 12 new charters per year in areas of low performing schools. With this narrowly-construed question, I am firmly on the ‘No’ side. I’ll break up my response into sections for clarity.

The expansion is too big.

The current law does not bar charter expansion, it only limits it, and there is good reason to do so. There are new charters approved to open this year in Boston and next year and more down the pike. My daughter’s school and others are in line with proposals for expansions of current schools or outright new schools, but I don’t think anyone is suffering from these schools all having to refine their ideas and compete for only a few to be selected. I just cannot understand why we would need to open the floodgates to allow as many as Question 2 lets in. It just makes sense to say that there is a limit to what we can sustain.

The expansion is too expensive.

Opening a new school is costly. It just does not make logical sense to believe that we could open more schools for the same cost.There is a commonly-touted idea that when a student leaves a district for a charter, they merely just take that one student’s allotted funds with them, but it’s not that simple. Just as an example BPS pays the transportation costs for all of the charter schools in Boston. As a second example, BPS schools have been told repeatedly that they cannot expand K1 slots across the district because the budget cannot support it. When new elementary charter schools open, they choose their configuration, start all students at K1 and BPS has to begin paying their per-pupil contribution at that grade level regardless of what BPS’ budget can support.

Another way to put this into perspective is to note that the BPS superintendent is now saying that pressures over drains to the budget are forcing BPS towards the cost-saving measure of consolidating and closing many of its small school pilot programs into larger schools and filling every inch of space in every building. How can we be talking about allowing more small charters in costly buildings if all that data tells us this is inefficient and unsustainable? Why is it not more reasonable to keep more of that money in efforts to improve the existing schools and programs within BPS?

The expansion will devastate BPS.

There’s been a lot out about this lately, I won’t belabor it, but if Question 2 passes, the outlook for BPS is really grim. That’s part of the reason why the City Council and the NAACP are so vocally against it.

The only way I could see still supporting Question 2 knowing the impact on BPS would be if I believed that BPS was a completely hopeless disaster and/or that the new charters would be a drastic improvement. I have found nothing to persuade me on either of those fronts. BPS, as a district, is far from failing. Further cuts would not be a surgical stroke cutting out bad schools and leaving the rest unscathed–cuts and closures would wreak havoc on the entire system.

One of the biggest immediate dangers to this initiative is that it will force BPS into some fiscally unsound, short-sighted austerity measures which have already been proposed. In addition to closing and consolidating schools, the push from charter schools wanting space and developers wanting land has already pressured BPS into talk of selling off school buildings. If Question 2 passes this is nearly guaranteed to happen. Once sold, BPS will never be able to afford to re-buy this land, making the damage from these decisions irrevocable.

New Charters are unlikely to be better than BPS

While there are some places where charter schools show a significant edge in performance over the district schools that is not true for Massachusetts or for Boston. Only a few charter schools consistently out-perform BPS and there are some serious questions about whether some of those results should even be relied on given differences in student populations and numbers of students who leave those schools early to return to BPS (I’ll say more about that further down).

Successful charters are not scalable

One of the biggest problems that I see with the idea that expanding charter schools improves options is that many of the most successful charters are based in practices that are not replicable on a large scale which is why they have not been copied within BPS, some examples:

-Charters tend to have policies that don’t have wide community support: Many schools get great results from students with very strict and inflexible policies on uniform, homework, attendance and conformity to minute classroom behaviors (e.g. everyone track the teacher with your eyes), and public display of individual student performance. I don’t at all dispute the usefulness of these practices, but they only work when put in place in a community that is selecting into them. These types of policies do not tend to survive larger public input or legal challenges which is why BPS and other districts usually have such watered down versions that the policies fall apart with things like “voluntary” uniforms, etc. Charter schools do not have to answer as directly to the public because the schools are few and small and often considered experimental, but already there are families “ending up” at charters after not getting BPS lottery choices rather than “choosing” these schools–expanding the number of charter schools brings us closer to the day when these strategies are challenged in a larger way.

-Charters tend to have policies that push/keep families out
I am not the cynic who believes that all charter schools design admissions and discipline policies to keep out the tougher or lower performing students, but I do believe that many charter schools have policies that have this effect regardless of their intent. I believe, for example, that charters that suspend students often do use this with the intent of turning around behavior and that this works really well for many of their students. The problem is that those same suspensions will also cause some parents to leave the school because they can’t afford to take the time off from work to support this policy. This is also true of schools with regular early release days–these policies limit which families can afford to have children attend the school.

-Charters don’t serve the most vulnerable children
This is the biggest sticking point for me on believing in the successes of charter schools: as much as there has been true concerted effort on increasing equity among schools, charter schools do not serve the same students as the districts. I’ll put aside the discussion about Special Education and English Language Learners who are under-served by charter schools because others have said this. My biggest concern is actually around more subtle and less counted student characteristics. Even as charter schools gain students who, on paper, fit the same demographics as BPS, what stands out to me above all other factors is that students at charter schools all needed someone to have signed them up on time for the first round of the lottery. For 11 years of my teaching career, I worked at a BPS high school, and a vast majority of my most vulnerable students (the students who had the hardest time with school) didn’t get their names on lists for the first round of the lottery because, often the students having the hardest time with school are from families that don’t know how to support school success. The students whose families don’t know how to navigate school are registered and placed at the last minute or have instability that causes them to shift schools mid-year. In my previous school, the turnover rate of my students was right around 50% every year–meaning I’d end the year with about the same number of students, but half of them would be different kids than the ones who started the year with me in September. Charter schools are filling their seats from the first round of the lottery and back-filling seats only from that first round lottery list. My students did make wonderful progress in their time at the school, but comparing data from schools with students whose families act early on school decisions with those who don’t (or can’t) sets up an unequal comparison from the start. We don’t have true data on what a charter can do versus a regular district school because in many ways, they are never serving all of the same students. That’s why I feel that charters are really an untested gamble in education. Allison mentioned this problem earlier in this thread, and she mentioned the proposed Unified Enrollment as a potential solution. Even without Unified Enrollment, if enough district schools disappear students will end up in charters without choosing them because they will be the only schools with seats. The problem with that is that we don’t know how these schools will do with students who didn’t choose into their policies and methods. We don’t know what will happen when kids can’t choose to drop back into BPS (which happens in a steady stream throughout the year) and/or when charters begin to face more community pressure and legal challenges to the discipline and classroom policies that get them their success.

My last objection to rapid expansion of charters is the one where I feel I probably have the least amount of credibility since I am a union member teacher, but if you’ve read this far and want to hear it, I’ll make my case:

Charter expansion is harmful to the long-term outlook of the teaching profession

There are many differences in philosophies, curricula, schedules, etc. across charter schools, and these are often touted as the reason we need charters, but BPS has again and again invented new types of schools that allow for all of these to be tried: pilot schools, innovation schools, etc. BPS has even increased its power to hire and fire teachers at will.The one feature that is truly distinct that charter schools and that BPS cannot do (yet) is pay teachers less and work them longer hours. Beyond my own self-interest, I do think that this lower pay for longer hours is bad for these charter schools and bad for the larger teaching profession because these working conditions tend to be unsustainable.

My husband starting teaching at a charter school, the one my daughter now attends, over a decade ago. We love the school, and at one point he explored returning there to work, but now that we have been teaching over a decade and have kids and a mortgage, he cannot afford to go back to that, or any similar charter because the pay cut would be so significant. What this means, functionally, is that most charter schools are operating with a faculty that is very young and that does not stay at the school long. They burn them out and they leave. The ones who want to keep teaching tend to seek better pay and job security in district schools, and the rest leave teaching for a “better” career. As a career teacher and as a parent, this leaves me concerned about the gaps in knowledge and experience within these schools, and it also leaves me really concerned about the mentality many of these teachers carry about their job and their students. Lowering pay and increasing hours changes the face of teaching, and I’m seeing more and more of what I call “missionaries”–teachers who view their job, not as a profession, but as a charity work they do for a year or two before they find a real job. That is not the mentality I want from the person teaching my child or anyone’s child, but I think it’s a growing mentality as we keep shrinking our district schools and shrinking the pool of experienced teachers while opening more and more schools staffed by largely new, inexperienced and low-paid teachers.

I’m going to stop myself there since this post is already far too long, but it is really hard to do justice to any of this issue briefly. As an exam school teacher, I teach students from middle and elementary schools all over BPS, from many of the charter schools, as well as from parochial, independent and home schools. I think all have their strengths and all can be good options for our kids. I’m sorry that I’m not capturing all of the nuance of my view here, but I’m just trying to focus on my reasons for opposing Question 2. I hope the conversation will continue. I am very happy to see not only both sides represented but lots of people expressing how torn they are. This is the conversation that needs to happen, and it seldom happens as openly or respectfully as it has so far on this thread.

The Third Way – Blazing an Optimistic Path Ahead in K-12 Education

Last month I attended the Boston Chamber of Commerce special event: Education Reform and how to succeed in Boston.  It was an eye opening experience in how corporate foundations are driving the discussion around education policy in Boston. After that experience, I’ve been reading more about the various “champions” of public education reform. This led me to my outing yesterday to the ICA on Boston’s waterfront. It was a beautiful day and the ICA is a lovely setting.

Here is a brief description of the event:

Join us at a kickoff event for the Third Way where we will explore some of the ways pioneering educators have been forging a Third Way ahead here and nationally.  We will hear from the frontlines how these efforts already positively affect the education and lives of thousands of students in Massachusetts.  Come to hear US Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. (pro-charter) and MA Secretary of Education James Peyser (pro-charter) speak.

Presented in partnership by Empower Schools and The Boston Foundations – both pro-charter organizations

 

It sounds lovely, doesn’t it?  I include the “pro-charter’ label because contrary to their slick marketing as this being a collaboartive movement between public and charter, this seems to be a repackaging of efforts to privatize and profit from the work of public education. Who was in attendance? As I stood in the ante room during the “networking” session, I was struck by how white and how corporate the room looked. By my count, there were 5 people of color in a room of at least 100 people. If this was a symposium about public ed in cities like Lawrence, Springfield and other “gateway cities”, where were the faces that reflected our districts? Well, host an event at 9:30 am and that will ensure that working parents and teachers will be unable to attend. Students, for fear of being reprimanded for speaking up for the education, also can’t attend. That is unless they are kids that are speaking on behalf or in a commercial cheering the benefits of Empower Schools agenda then they will get a pass for missing that ever important “instructional classroom time”

We then filed into the large auditorium. I ended up sitting next to Beverly Holmes, who it turns out is on the Board of the Springfield Empowerment Zone. I didn’t realize this at the time so she probably thinks I’m a lunatic. She asked which organization I was with and I replied – “Just an interested resident and BPS parent” She commented her surprise at the number of venture fund people she had met in the networking time and how few educators. I commented as to how white I found the event and the fact that I feel poverty is the issue not public education. Well, it was longer than that but that’s the short version.  Then they turned off the lights and the event began. What followed, began with a well-produced commercial featuring happy kids and what I supposed were teachers and parents talking about the miracle of “Third Way”. This love fest about “The Third Way” then continued for 2 hours.

While I didn’t take notes because it was dark and I can’t see without light, Tracy Novick of Worcester and Margaret Driscoll of Melrose were more prepared than I. Here are their notes as well as the panelists:

http://who-cester.blogspot.com/2016/05/third-way-at-ica.html

http://takingnotesinmelrose.blogspot.com/

I’d like to discuss what I didn’t hear. The hosts of the event did not acknowledge that the crowd was not reflective of the districts they were proposing to “fix”. A few panelists did. Only four out of I think 24 panelists raised the issues of race and poverty in the context of addressing the challenges facing urban districts. Both Jim Peyser and Paul Grogan were clear in their position that charters are the only solution they see working in public ed. There was no acknowledgment of the impact of poverty on these schools and districts. Well, there was. The head of the Lawrence teachers union spoke passionately about the fact that many of their student live in “abject poverty”. Other than that, it was “failing schools” and how this “Third Way” was the next great hope for poor kids.

There is the root of my discomfort and frustration with the leaders of the foundations and non-profits driving education policy in urban centers. They don’t represent the constituencies their policies most directly impact. They don’t have their kids in these schools. They either live in the suburbs, send their kids to private schools or their kids are in one of the “good public schools.”  I’m not judging their decisions as parents to find the best option for their kids. I understand that kids don’t have the luxury of time. But the hypocrisy of it is gnawing at me. They may be driven by a desire to make the world a better place but until they acknowledge their privilege and bring more voices, even voices of dissent to the table, they are only perpetuating the very systems of oppression that have created the disparities between “successful” and “failing” schools. The people in positions of power and priviledge are dictating the terms of success by which families of color and families living in poverty (which in Boston are inextricably linked) have to abide. They do so without their input, dismiss dissent as uninformed and misguided and withhold resources for programs unless they are ones they deem worthwhile. In order for this to be a collaboration, all parties need to be welcomed to the table and the proposed solutions cannot be predetermined.

While I have been advocating for BPS, I don’t pretend to think that I know the all the issues facing the various families in my district. I’m working very hard to not be part of the problem.

 

 

 

 

Just trust me and hold tight

At a Mondays with the Mayor event held in West Roxbury this week, Mayor Walsh finally engaged parents in a public forum to discuss the impact of the budget he’s presented. There were again tears from students testifying, anger and frustration on the parts of parents and teachers and deflection from the Mayor.There was much self congratulation on the sheer dollar amount of the budget – ONE BILLION DOLLARS. There was a lot of talk about historic investment in the schools. However, the most interesting part for me was his response, when asked by a parent if the depth of these cuts is going to repeat itself next year. He said it was going to be a rough two years, twenty four months. He said to hold tight and trust him. Give him two years and we will see amazing things.

We are being asked to tolerate untenable conditions for two years. We are a being asked to accept that in two years, things will be amazing and different.

If this were the Park department, they could recover and refocus efforts on rebuilding and rejuvenating our green space after two years.

If this were the Arts and Culture department, they could regroup and reinstitute cultural programming after two years.

If this were the Sports and Tourism department, they could reassemble and reactivate marketing and programing after two years.

2 schools years, 18 months of inadequate instructional support and services means the following for these communties:

Two years from now, children currently in Boston Public schools will have lost countless opportunities to learn, engage, embrace and rejoice in their education. These lost opportunities will never be recaptured.

Families with pre-school aged children across the city

2 years from now many young families will have moved out of the city due to the continued shortage of pre-k seats across the city.

2 years from now the achievement gap for our youngest students will continue to grow due to the myriad cuts to all five EEC/ELC schools including para support and all “extra” programming such as swimming, arts, music, and tennis.

2 years from now the academic skills of our traditionally marginalized students will continue to lag behind their suburban counterparts due to fewer para supports and dramatically higher classroom ratios than the suburbs.

The sophomores and juniors at Boston Community Leadership Academy in Hyde Park:

2 years from now – they may not be able to apply to college if they lose their accreditation due to loss of librarian.

2 years from now they will have had larger classes and less personalized instruction due to the loss of 10 teachers in 2016.

2 years from now they will have missed out on the advantages created by students who have access to theater classes.

2 years from now they will have persevered despite losing their flagship Leadership program for which the school is named.

2 years from now they will not have been able to prep and take the AP Biology and History exams which provide additional advantages as they apply to and attend college.

Sophomores and Juniors at Snowden International in Back Bay

2 years from now their college applications prospects will be impacted because they have not had less access to guidance counselors.

2 years from now their college applications prospects will be impacted because they have lost their librarian and potentially their accreditation.

Guild Elementary students in East Boston

2 years from now their ability to apply to and be accepted at one of the exam schools will be diminished because they have fewer paraprofessionals to assist teachers in academic achievement.

2 years from now, the achievement gap for ELL students will widen because they will have spent two years with fewer English as a Second Language educators

Boston Teachers Union students in Jamaica Plain

2 years from now their ability succeed in high school be diminished because they have fewer teachers in their middle school classes

2 years from now they will have missed out on the additional growth and development previously offered by Playworks and

 Timilty Middle School in Roxbury

2 years from now, their ability succeed in high school be diminished because they lost one of their history teachers

2 years from now, students with IEP/504 designation will be further behind their general education peers academically because their resource room teacher was reduced to part time.

2 years from now, students for whom gym and physical exercise is a vital component of their success at school, will wonder why they have fallen behind. Their gym teacher was eliminated in 2016.

Young Achievers in Mattapan:

2 years from now, teachers who worked in pairs to provide high quality instruction in full inclusion classrooms, will have struggled to meet those same needs on their own due to a reduction to one instructor per classroom. While their students have fallen further behind.

2 years from now, students in need of social and emotional instruction will have lost years of opportunities as these instructors were eliminated in 2016.

The sophomores and juniors at Burke High School in Dorchester:

2 years from now – they will not be able to apply to colleges because they have not access to a foreign language class which is a requirement at most colleges. Their only Spanish teacher was eliminated in 2016

2 years from now – they will have lost the opportunity to advance their 21st skills due to elimnation of their technology teacher in 2016

2 years from now – students with social and emotional concerns will have struggled through unnecessary pain and suffering because of limited access to social workers.

Mather Elementary in Dorchester

2 years from now their ability succeed in middle and high school will be diminished because they have two fewer teachers

2 years from now their options will be further limited compared to their suburban peers due to lost supports from partnership programs at Playworks http://www.playworks.org/communities/massachusetts) & Achievement Network http://www.achievementnetwork.org/

The inevitable conclusion –

Two years from now, pundits and journalists will decry the state of public education in Boston. “How did this happen?” “Massachusetts used to be first in the nation.” “Did no one see this coming?”

Two years from now, the achievement gap between those with access to resources and those without will have become a chasm that may be unbridgeable.

Two years from now, the MCAS scores across the city will have fallen. These ever important markers of success (to school officials and ed reformers) will be touted as proof that Boston Public schools are in need of a major transformation (aka charter school expansion). I personally think they are an extremely poor standard by which to place so much weight as to the success or failure of students, teachers and schools.  But it’s the measure by which schools are currently judged by the public.

Two years from now, enrollment, which has been relatively stable up from 2010 – 2016 will begin to rapidly decrease due to justified concerns over lack of access to basic resources, class offerings and even faculty. Parents that have the means to do so will transfer out of the district either through going to private schools or leaving for the suburbs.

*BPS enrollment: 2010/11 – 57,050 11/12 – n/a, 12/13 – 57,100, 13/14 – 57,000, 14/15 – 57,230, 15/16 – 56,650

5/7/2016 – Edited enrollment numbers to reflect BPS data vs. DESE. DESE doesn’t capture students that transfer in during the fall.

Two years from now, the demand for charter schools, from parents who cannot leave the city, will grow increasingly louder as charter backers ramp up their marketing that they can provide a dramatically different educational experience for students. Based on their past two years of austerity within BPS, parents will be willing to try anything to help their children.

Two years from now, students with special education, emotional and social learning issues will be accepted into newly expanded charter schools on a lottery basis only to be counseled out and back into the dying public schools. * see links at bottom

Two years from now, families that don’t have the time or resources to dive into promises made by charter schools, will believe these schools will be the path out of poverty for their kids. This will be true for a small percentage of them if data from the past few years holds true.

Two years from now, the Walton, Barr, Boston, Gates and Lynch Foundation Cabal will declare that they have been right all along. Public Education in Boston is a failure. It’s failing students across the city. They will disregard all those years Massachusetts and Boston ranked #1 in the country.

Two years from now, Foundation Cabal  will declare that these schools are failing our students for the reasons I’ve listed. Everyone will feign shock and disappointment. They will lay blame at the feet of the teachers union and the previous administrations failures to fix a broken system. They will then begin dismantling, consolidating and/or closing the schools to convert the district to a portfolio district.  But none of this is news. It is intentional. It is laid out and explained here in great, easy to read detail (with charts and graphs even!).  https://publicschoolmama.com/bps-and-the-18-month-plan/

Two years from now, the remaining schools will be left to slowly wither away until the only students left in them are the ones the charters won’t keep – English Language Learners and students with special needs.

Additional data points regarding charter success or lack of:

Boston Charters push out vs MCAS scores: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1oEfD0Dk278ipunC46lZfLtWsU94m5D3INZmmLnvXWoI/edit#gid=1109945258

Boston Renesaince cohort attrition:  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1_JFsx3xy3qJ6_CqtvU2vV_XxF_iWFgX95UaLxmAlkEE/edit#gid=0

Brook Charter schools data including ELL and suspension data: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1qaJcVmbXZkm33OPZY0SNR5kcgNuRbPZs56StuYaTxys/edit#gid=750622232

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boston Public Schools – The latest stop in the lead poisoning of children

If you feel that Boston’s elected and school officials should be held to a higher standard than what has transpired in Flint, MI, please read through to the end. Boston public school students have been being exposed to lead at school for months. Last week on April 26th, it was reported that there were four schools had dangerous lead levels in a water fountain. These schools included Boston Latin Academy, Murphy K-8, Kenny Elementary school & the Hernandez K-8 School. Parents were notified via a robocall. At the school committee meeting on April 27th, a teacher from the Hernandez and parent gave a heartbreaking testimony regarding her drinking for years from one of the contaminated fountains including while pregnant. She said she will know always question if her son’s Autism is at all linked to the excessive exposure while in utero. Mary Battenfield then presented a plan proposed by parents asking for transparency, how to assist families in testing for exposure and tracking those students to address any issues that arise in the future among other policy suggestions.

They were followed by Kim Rice, Director of Operations and Jill Carter, Executive Director, Department of Health and Wellness. Here is a link to the video. I’ve transcribed portions of the testimony to highlight the tone of the presentation.

http://www.cityofboston.gov/cable/video_library.asp?id=16545

Water policy testimony and questioning begins at approximately 1:19:45

KR – 100% of the schools have been tested. This was not a sampling. Everyone can be clear that all the water they are drinking in the buildings is good drinking water. In all schools. They are either off line meaning fountains are not on and there are water bubblers, in a lot of instances they are even on line with water bubblers – there are multiple water sources within the building.

We made sure that 100% of our water that is accessible is good drinking water.

 JC – I also want to highlight one piece. The idea for testing all of these schools and getting students back to drinking as much water as they need, the reason why we found in these schools is because we had this strong push and vision to make sure that all our students have access to drinking water. And so we found these things because we were going above and beyond to test everything and because we didn’t want to make a plan without knowing. ….. If we are going to have trust with the community that we are doing the best we can, to make sure that they have access not just to water but to safe water.

KR: This has been a good learning experience in terms of communication protocols.

Towards the end of the discussion, Dr. Chang praised their efforts. “I want to make one commendation. When we found out every fountain wasn’t being tested annually, this team immediately insisted that we needed to test every water fountain.

Later that evening (at like 10:30 pm) Boston Schools, via twitter confirmed that 34/38 fountain tests returned below the EPA action limit of 15 parts per billion (ppb).

Fast forward one week and we get the news that Oops, nope, four more schools.  Now parents at the Curley School, Mather Elementary, Lee K-8 School & Another Course to College. These are four more schools that had water in “on-line” fountains that had levels the EPA considered dangerous. These fountains were working for somewhere between a few hours to a few weeks. BPS knew in December that some fountains tested higher than acceptable at The Mather Elementary School and turned off the water. Kim Rice met with staff on January 29th to discuss the water situation. But didn’t notify school families until February 12th. In addition, the families were told not to worry, there were no health risks associated with the elevated levels. BPS was just being proactive by turning off those fountains. If she knew about the issues at the Mather, why did she not include it in last week’s count of schools impacted by elevated levels of lead.

Fortunately, I guess, my daughter’s school doesn’t have working water fountains so she’s being drinking bubbler water all year. Gratefully she is having a wonderful experience at her school. I fully believe the staff has her and all the students best interests in mind every day.

However, at this point, I’ve lost all confidence in the Central Office administration. Between the Finance Departments inability to answer basic questions at City Council hearings regarding their budget (I’ll be writing about this soon), to the misinformation presented at the School committee last week, I’m not sure if they are poorly prepared, misinformed, disingenuous or flat out lying.

What I do know is this. This ongoing would never be tolerated in the suburbs. Parents have been communicating their frustration with the Mayor, Superintendent Chang and our City Council members.  Does anyone with any clout in this city care about our kids enough to stand up to the Mayor and the behind the scenes ed reformers driving his agenda and say enough is enough? If you live in outside Boston and wouldn’t tolerate this in your schools, please join with the families of Boston and demand better facilities for every student in the state regardless of zipcode. Contact Governor Baker (and demand that he address this growing health situation.

We were told on Monday night by Mayor Walsh – “hold tight, trust us”. Well I for one, will no longer hold tight. Nor do I trust you.

 

 

Why tone and language matter

There is a big battle brewing in Massachusetts over whether or not to raise the current cap on the number of charter seats allowed in the state. In an attempt to address the concerns of both sides, the Senate working group has written a piece of legislation that addresses not only the cap on the number of seats but also funding disparities, transparency concerns as well as safe guards for the most vulnerable students. I personally don’t have an issue with student and families being offered a variety of educational options, this includes charter schools. Each child is different and a one size fits all model of education will no longer work because our needs are very different than when public standardized education was first introduced in this country. But the impact on the majority of students (96%) in traditional public schools needs to be mitigated to prevent a complete collapse of public education.

Many parents are in support of this bill because it takes a balanced, nuanced approach to a very complex situation and requires collaboration between those that favor charter schools and those that favor traditional public education. The teachers unions and the pro charter backers have decided they would rather fight it out at the ballot box and in the process spend millions of dollars that they could otherwise invest in educational initiatives across the state. I’d ask that they all take a look at the end goal – happy, productive kids and determine how best to focus their energies. While the dismissal of the RISE Act by Governor Baker and Mayor Walsh is telling as to where their support clearly lies, the most egregious response was from Paul Grogan, head of The Boston Foundation.

We have a big success story happening in a very difficult area, and if there’s some pain and suffering to existing institutions because they haven’t been able to be effective, there’s going to have to be consequences to that, just as there is in the private sector.

I’d like to break this down:

  • We have a big success story– This statement implies that charter schools are far more successful than traditional public schools. I have not seen results to support those claims after digging down into the data. Yes, some schools appear to be more successful when using traditional measures of standardized test scores. However, what is not addressed, are cohort attrition rates. While charters students are accepted on a lottery basis, there is a disproportionate attrition rate among ELL students and special needs students. In addition, I’m not convinced that most charters are doing anything revolutionary or innovative. Those that are deserve to be celebrated as do the pilot, Horace Mann and innovation schools within BPS. To say nothing of the alternative models of education that are popping up across the country.  More schools need to be given the freedom to do what works for their student population. This will require work on the part of districts and teachers unions as well as financial support from city, state and federal governments. As for charters, most seem to be simply offering the same rigid, model of standardized, institutionalized education but with fewer restrictions. The current educational model needs some real, significant  and systemic changes. However to require one model to adhere to one set of regulations and the other an entirely different set and compare them with the same standards is ridiculous.
  • “Very difficult area” – What he doesn’t say is but is implied is “urban public schools”. The charter battle is most heated in school districts serving highly concentrated areas of poverty with their schools labeled as “failing” schools. I don’t believe that it is just urban schools that are failing our children. This label of “failing schools” only being applied to schools as a measurement of test scores and graduation rates ignores the pernicious nature of poverty. Perhaps a serious look needs to be given to the myriad social services schools provide in these low income communities. Perhaps if city, state and federal officials made a real attempt to address the policy issues (both current and historical) that have left such disparate concentrations of wealth across the nation and specifically in cities such as Boston and San Francisco, schools wouldn’t need to provide so many services under the umbrella of education. The complexities surrounding educating low income students are beyond the scope of my experience. What I will say is that urban schools, from my perspective, are the final safety net for low income students. I do agree that many students are failing to get the education they deserve. While money will not solve all the problems, the fact that in BPS many schools don’t have a dedicated librarian or nurse, safe functional buildings or the variety of innovative challenging program offerings ubiquitous in the suburbs surrounding BPS is due to generations of financial neglect on the part of the city and state. In this case, more money will help alleviate the inequities.
  • If there’s some pain and suffering to existing institutions because they haven’t been able to be effective, there’s going to have to be consequences to that, just as there is in the private sector.” I’m not even sure where to begin with this statement. To me, it reveals disconnect between the focus on policy and the people it impacts. Institutions don’t feel pain and suffering, people do. The people, in this case, are the children of the Boston and other districts with high conentrations of poverty. Perhaps he should expand his definition of failing institutions to cover all areas of government and private regulations that have enabled a small percentage of citizens to continue to prosper while the majority are unable to advance economically in spite of hard work and determination. My question for Mr. Grogan would be “Do these kids really deserve to be punished because for generations, we as a country have failed to address the continual apathy towards the realities of the poor?”

I chose to believe Mr. Grogan does the work he does from a place of compassion and conviction. I’ve reviewed TBF’s 990 forms and they support a wide variety of initiatives to help improve the quality of life in the city of Boston. It is one of the few foundations that while  supporting charter schools, also support efforts within the Boston Public school system to address the shortfalls in their funding. I urge him to rethink this impact this statement is having on the 56,000 students in Boston public and across the state. We would all be better served if we work together to raise up all students rather than place the focus on a small percentage of kids and continue to label them as “failing.” We need to change the narrative and begin highlighting what is working across the board (traditional public schools, charter schools, private schools and alternative educational models) and work to expand those that are successful in a fair and equitable way to more children.