by David Safier
- Texas "copy" charters: Four potential charter schools turned in applications with identical sections in each of them, "even [claiming] parts of another school's public hearing summary as their own." Each of the charter hopefuls signed the applications attesting to their accuracy. I assume they'll give students the same copy latitude on their essays.
- Great Hearts, small feet: Arizona's Great Hearts charters tried to open a school in Nashville, Tennessee, but the school board nixed it because the school would have been located in an up-scale area, limiting its social and economic diversity (exactly what Great Hearts and BASIS do here in Arizona). Angry conservative state legislators have created a bill saying the state government can grant charters, bypassing local school boards. But the law only applies to Nashville and Memphis, since lots of conservative lawmakers "don’t think it’s such a great idea for the state to big-foot their local school boards."
- Jeb Bush push for virtual schools, privatization: When Maine's Commissioner of Ed wanted to expand and deregulate virtual schools, he didn't have the staff to write and push the legislation. Who you gonna call? Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education. At a summit (paid for by FEE), the commissioner was told, don't worry, we'll "suggest policies, write laws and gubernatorial decrees, and develop strategies to ensure they were implemented" by Patricia Levesque, head of FEE. Funny thing, though. Levesque is actually a private lobbyist who doesn't take a salary from FEE, which instead pays her firm for its services. (A cache of FEE emails have been made public recently, detailing the Foundation's behind-the-scenes support for vouchers and other privatization measures.)
- Pennsylvania charters, heal thy AYP: A recent recalculation of 2011-12 academic performance of charter schools found a decline in schools meeting Adequate Yearly Progress targets. "The recalculations show that only 28% of all charter schools met AYP, as compared to 49% determined under the calculations made last fall." No cyber schools met their AYP targets.
- A (seriously) good public school story: A UC Berkely prof has a column in the Sunday NY Times about public schools in Union City, NJ -- unemployment 60% higher than the national average, 75% of the children living in homes where only Spanish is spoken. Yet their high school graduation and college enrollment stats are through the roof. How do they do it? Not through drill-and-kill, test-prep strategies. Almost every 3-4 year old is in prekindergarten, where they take advantage of teachable moments (Cooking: Does the onion smell strong or light? Do you think it'll smell different when we cook it? When I put all the ingredients in, what will happen?) As the students move through school, they are taught to be "thinkers, not test-takers" -- writing journals, looking for meaning in stories, solving math problems. "[T]hese schools felt less like impersonal institutions than the simulacrum of an extended family." It's a thrilling story, part of an upcoming book about how a humane, holistic, focused approach to education can get results.