Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Yes, though that alone wouldn't do anything to improve academic achievement.
And since new money isn't coming for several years at least, what can we do in the meantime if we are serious about improving student learning? The National Bureau of Economic Research suggests this: "replacing the bottom 5-8 percent of teachers with average teachers could move the U.S. near the top of international math and science rankings with a present value of $100 trillion."
How does our spending in the US (where Utah is at the bottom of the pile) compare with other countries? And how does that affect student performance, if at all? Check this video:
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger writes today in the Washington Post about a transformative (in a positive way--maybe the only recent such development out of the Golden State) new law that allows a majority of parents to drive education reform at their local schools.
The first execution of that law just happened in Compton, an inner city suburb of Los Angeles. There, the parents voted to change their local school into a charter school, which it will be next year, run by a successful charter management organization that operates several other schools in California.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
In a mostly cordial meeting, the legislative Administrative Rules Review committee heard form the State Charter School Board on Wednesday regarding the performance framework the Board is currently drafting. If you're enough of a junkie, the audio is worth listening to.
If you want a synopsis, this Tribune report is pretty good.
FWIW, my position on the framework is that the current draft sets high-bar goals instead of minimum standards, replaces too much local board judgment with state judgments, and that without being paired with what required actions or consequences would follow is unadoptable at this point.
Denis Morrill is officially off of the State Board of Education.
Monday, December 13, 2010
If you google for charter school news, you'll find lots of articles where if you just replace the name of another state with "Utah," you'll see that our story is repeated over and over across the country.
- In Indiana, the governor wants to expand charters, "but some educators say they fear establishing more charter schools will funnel money away from the already cash-strapped budgets of traditional public schools."
- Out of North Carolina we have two stories: A school is fighting against state efforts that would revoke their charters. The state's reason for the closure is high dropout rates. Second, a new Republican super majority in the state General Assembly plans to remove the cap on the state's charters. "Lifting the cap on charter schools is something that both houses of the General Assembly will address in the first few weeks of the session," said Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, who is expected to be elected Senate leader when the Legislature reconvenes." What does the union think? Their strategy is interesting. "The 70,000-member North Carolina Association of Educators has opposed raising the cap for years, but its leaders say they understand the new political climate at the Legislature. They plan to shift their focus to fixing what they say are weaknesses in the current charter school operations that harm local school districts."
- And in Georgia, the state Supreme Court is going to decide whether the creation of a centralized charter authorizer is constitutional, largely because of a fight over charter access to local funding. The legislature thought local districts weren't authorizing enough charters (sound familiar?), so they created a state entity to do it instead (as did Utah). But, those authorized schools didn't have access to locally raised education funding (sound familiar, again?). When the legislature corrected that problem, that's when seven districts sued.
- Also in Georgia, in a circumstance thankfully not repeated in Utah, a charter school caught fire and was destroyed.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
The Governor is very happy with his budget proposal. I'm okay with it, too. It funds charter and district enrollment growth. Will it survive legislative wrangling and amendments? Will we be able to improve it with funding parity for charter school students? Keep watching. Legislature in session in about five weeks.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Full agenda, so we're starting early, but not too early. The person who records the meeting was stuck on delayed Trax.
During the Accreditation report at the beginning of the meeting, Georgia Loutensock clarified the issue behind American Leadership's "advised" status--they handed in a report late.
Then the board gets to the Accountability and Performance Framework. The board says they didn't get as much feedback from as many groups as they wanted, though they thank me for the letter I sent, which was co-signed by more than 30 schools. Chris Bleak is at the meeting and prepared to speak to the issue. Will they allow it? Nope. No public comment on this topic. The board says they want feedback, but then why not allow it in the format that stakeholders want to provide it? Chris makes his comments during the following "Public Comments" section of the agenda.
A few amendments: Wasatch Peak amended its charter to make it less of a dual immersion approach, to specific instruction in Spanish. Reagan Academy had several clarification and consistency amendments to its charter. Lots of questions and comments from the board, and Reagan withdrew their app in the face of obvious opposition by the board. How will Renaissance handle their amendment request, which is described on the agenda in the same way?
Renaissance may have learned from Reagan's experience just prior, because discussion is much friendlier. It's going well until they called their charter a "fluid document." That may be a nail. Yup. They also withdrew their request until next time. Now it's Utah Connections. Brian Allen, former SCSB chair, is on their board. He'll be back up there again, too. Connections is asking for a waiver from "traditional structures," since they'll have a physical office, but not an actual school building, since their an online school. The discussion, which was long enough combined with the previous ones to put the board behind schedule, centered on whether the waiver was necessary at all. No need for a waiver, it turns out, and so no action taken.
Now to the new applicants. There are three on the agenda. First up is Endeavor Hall, a writing focus school proposed for West Valley. (I consulted on their charter and have agreed to provide some startup financing if they are approved.) Endeavor is seeking approval of its charter and for a waiver to open in the fall of 2011. Their presentation is awesome (see above statement of bias and conflict), and there is clear board support for the charter. There's hesitation on the waiver, though, which was predictable. There's another school (Valley Academy in Washington County) asking for the same waiver, and there's not enough statutory enrollment space to grant both. The board tables action until after they hear from Valley.
High Mark Charter School is next, hoping to open in South Weber. They aren't seeking a waiver, but to open in 2012, so theirs might go easier. Are they associated with HighMark School development? Scott Smith asks. Nope. Big laughs on the coincidence of the name. (I was confused too when I reviewed their charter as part of the vetting process before this presentation.) Theirs is a school focused on business and entrepreneurship--a cool focus that is unique among Utah charters. Their model calls for a small elementary and a large junior high, of which there is not a successful model in Utah. Doesn't seem to be an issue for the State Board, however. Approved unanimously.
Valley Academy now. They call themselves an iSchool Campus. They look and sound a lot like Vista School, already operating in the same district, but not filled to enrollment capacity. How can there be both growth enough in the area to sustain a new school and at the same time have vacant public schools? Tim Beagley asks. Many questions about the quality of the application, and the likelihood of them having enough students to draw from to operate at their requested capacity. Board votes to not approve, and the school can re-apply if they want to try.
Since Valley is a no-go, the board moves back to Endeavor Hall. Seems like there is resistance to the waiver, which isn't necessarily a surprise, but is still antithetical to the idea of charters being laboratories of innovation that don't fit in a single box. I argue that the existing rule was put in place to address the common model of charter startup, but that such rules should be freely and happily waived when a model comes along that doesn't fit with the target. Here we have a school with a short-term opportunity on a building, with an experienced board, and with access to low-cost money. YAY!
Into closed session. I wish I could blog all about the Coleman lawsuit, but no go. Off to Cedar City.
**Update** I neglected to mention that the "YAY!" above was because EH was approved unanimously, waiver and all. Not because I took a bit of a verbal beating (no offense taken) for being willing to put my money where my mouth is and provide some short-term cash to a quality applicant.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
So, at the State Board of Education meeting on Friday, three charter schools had amendment or expansion requests before the Law and Policy Committee. Also on its agenda was the timeline for charter school approvals, which brought me to their meeting in the first place.
Two of the schools, American Preparatory Academy and Utah Virtual Academy, both seeking expansions (APA's was a satellite school request), had called in the days prior seeking to have their items delayed while they gather more information for questions raised when certain committee members gave them what for the last go round.
Again, it was Denis Morrill to the rescue, claiming that the reason for the delay was all about him and his lawsuit against the Utah Constitution. So, the committee spent an hour and a quarter discussing the reasons for the delay, Morrill's and Leslie Castle's preference that the board go ahead and deny the applications today on the basis of missing or mis-information, and the laundry list of reasons (many of them inaccurate) about why each school should be keelhauled.
At 10:00, when the committee was scheduled to end, nothing had been discussed except for the two items listed as "removed from agenda." The committee took hasty action to approve a board expansion ("They are paying too much for their lease!" Morrill said, voting against) at Hawthorn academy. It didn't even consider the charter timeline issue, meaning an entirely wasted morning for me, except for the entertainment of Denis Morrill literally pounding the table in disgust and the sad lack of knowledge and complete dysfunction that pervades the committee that is tasked with judging charter fitness for expansion and vetting all state education policy.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Well, maybe not trouble. "Schools on advised status are not necessarily in danger of losing their accreditation, but it means they have issues that could eventually threaten it."
American Leadership Academy, two private schools, and three district high schools have "advised" status in the most recent report on Utah's Northwest accreditation report.