Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman

"Claim #1: Michelle Rhee, Geoffrey Canada, and David Levin and Mike Feinberg are “a group of education reformers currently defying the odds.”

Truth: Michelle Rhee has been wildly unpopular in Washington D.C., where she is the Chancellor. Parents, students, and teachers have rejected her deform agenda. Ms. Rhee’s approach to reform undoubtedly unseated the Mayor of DC in a recent primary, and we have seen voters across the country reject deformer led political campaigns in the voting booth. A Chancellor who does not meet the needs of ALL parents and children should not be heralded as an exemplary reformer. Visit:
Geoffrey Canada has built a charter brand with his Harlem Children’s Zone. While HCZ boasts surpluses of $200 million dollars, it collects millions in public funds and real estate sweetheart deals, siphoning tens of millions in taxpayer dollars and resources from needy public schools. Further, Canada’s approach to student enrollment is discriminatory and highly motivated by standardized test scores. Canada “fired” an entire class of children from HCZ, phasing out the middle school there, and restarted his program with students who only follow HCZ from Kindergarten on. Folks who run schools that do not serve ALL children should not be heralded as exemplary reformers.
David Levin and Mike Feinberg’s KIPP schools have faced a multitude of controversies around the country. Their schools serve far less students with special needs, those that require ELL services and students who qualify for free lunch compared with their neighboring public schools. KIPP schools require parents and students to sign a “Contract for Excellence” because “they are here by choice”. If students and parents do not follow the contract, they are dismissed from their KIPP School. Folks who run schools that do not serve ALL children should not be heralded as exemplary reformers.

Claim #2: Teacher unions have obstructed reform in our public education system. Too much focus has been placed on what is good for adults, rather than children.

Truth: Research shows the most significant factors attributed to high student achievement are smaller class size and teacher experience. Teacher unions are the primary reason class sizes have not ballooned out of control, particularly in New York City. While the ed deformers would like to turn teaching into a revolving door and hire more inexperienced and untrained Teach for America members (the vast majority stay in teaching for only two years), teacher unions ensure the protections and incentives necessary to have a teaching career where individuals can learn and grow as professionals and offer years of experience to their students. Unions are the only structure left to prevent the full privatization of public education and other vital services in our country; this is why teachers, and their unions, are under attack. Moreover, it is ironic so-called “reformers” attack teacher unions for obstructing reform when the vast majority of educators, and many parents, do not feel teacher unions have gone far enough to stop the drive to privatize or to protect public school students from large class sizes and high stakes testing, which all will result in the true destruction of our public education system.

Claim #3: Charter schools are a silver bullet and offer something public schools have been lacking.

Truth: The evidence analyzing student achievement in charter schools clearly shows that they perform at about the same level as public schools. While charter school performance mirrors public school performance, they serve far less vulnerable and needy students. Charter schools serve fewer children with special needs, fewer children who receive ELL services, and fewer children who receive free lunch compared with their neighboring public school. Further, charter schools enroll students by lottery, do not have to take students during the school year, and can dismiss students at will. Charter schools are nothing short of a tool in the re-segregation of our public school system, further sorting and separating children, and straining and dividing already under resourced neighborhoods.

We Need Real Reform Right Now:
Reform #1: Small Class Sizes

Reform #2: Excellent Community Public Schools for ALL Children
Reform #3: More Teaching – Less Testing
Reform #4: Parent Empowerment and Leadership
Reform #5: Equitable Funding for ALL Schools
Reform #6: Culturally Relevant Curriculum
Reform #7: Expand Pre Kindergarten and Early Intervention Programs"