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February 11, 2008

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And here I showed up to give testimony on Ivy's behalf! If only they had waited! Awww, just kiddin'. I had something else in mind.

You were on TV, Wacky. I was sorely disappointed that I didn't get to hear your testimony. Or Steve's.

What a surprise, and one that was met with some consternation from the school board. Having put them through several days of anguish (at least those who were on the fence), the organizers certainly seem to have shot themselves in the foot. Bobbie actually seemed to be offering to vote down the appeal, so that they would have a cleaner appeal, but Dan and David pretty much said "fuhgeddaboutit!"

Now, they're off the flow chart. If the Oregon Department of Education does accept their appeal, guess what... They'll have to go before the PPS board again. After their shenanigans tonight, they can't expect a very cordial reception on their third go-round.

I wasn't going to speak, having sent several e-mails. Peter Campbell and Wacky were the only people signed up. Nobody signed up to speak in favor, presumably because the organizers were withdrawing.

WAHOO!

PPS needs to do the following:

1. an affirmative action plan needs to be considered RE: charter enrollment so that the charters are mandated to accept a certain number of low-income families, minorities, and low-income minorities

2. PPS needs to hire an independent researcher to determine why the charters appeal mostly to white, middle to upper-middle-class families and what can be done to broaden their appeal

If we're going to have charters, we have to make sure they are set up equitably and that they really are inclusive and open to everyone.

No "independent researcher" is needed to figure out why middle class white folks are attracted to charters, Peter. They're simply set up as another "escape" alternative to lower class schools.

The only equitable solution to charters is to reform all neighborhood schools so that they become more attractive to district patrons. Otherwise the most vulnerable students in our system will be continue to be left behind.

As I wrote on your PPS Equity piece, school reform is not exactly rocket science. We simply need people in leadership positions who understand it and are willing to empower teachers and other building educators to create better and more relevant learning environments.

Separate charter schools are not the answer.

Oh, I don't think the Ivy vine is dead, I think it is just planting it's roots. Personally, I think there should be a Public Montessori. We live in Portland...the land of the liberals, remember?
When Ivy does finally get approved, you can bet your bottom dollar, that I will apply for the lottery for my child. I am not interested in any of the charter schools, I am interested in the Montessori theory of educating. Don't worry folks, I will not be decreasing the enrollment of my neighborhood school. I would rather send my child to a private Montessori, than to my neighborhood public school. I know what your thinking....I am a white, upper-middle class member of society. Well you are right, I am white, but I work my ass off! I will be willing to put in more hours at my current, underpaid job, I will sacrifice vacations, just to get my child a Montessori education. Now life would be great if I could send my kids to school for free, and not have to work crazy hours and miss vacations. So thats my view. Go Ivy!

Peter - I would be in full support of an affirmative action plan to support minority and low income students entry into charter schools. I would also want a transportation plan to go along with that so that low income folks could rest assured their kids are getting to and from the school.
I've always been puzzled as to why that doesn't exist. Currently, if there are more folks who want to enroll than there are spots in a given charter school the school must perform a lottery enrollment.

Terry - I like the idea of working on all local schools so that they will be more attractive to district families. There are several innovative, excellent programs available in PPS local schools. (There is a lot of info about existing schools, portland schools on this page : http://www.pps.k12.or.us/schools-c/)
We should:
A) learn about them, tell others about them, support them in public
B) come up with new ideas, develop the ideas, and figure out a way to work with the district to integrate them directly into local schools - working along side the local school teachers and administration.

Regards,
Andy (Ivy)

Ivy is not dead. I was at the meeting and they are merely going to appeal to the state department. They were denied the first time and feel this is enough. Obviously they had done their homework since they were not concerned about not being able to appeal if they weren't denied a second time.

A public Montessori school is a good idea. Put it in the poor part of town as a neighborhood school. One less school to worry about maybe.

Having spent good money for a year of my daughter getting ignored, spit on, and beat up at a local private Montessori (no, I'm not exaggerating), I can't say I'd be very happy if my neighborhood school converted. That was her worst year of education, followed by her best: Head Start. Now we're pretty happy with the middle ground of our traditional neighborhood school.

There's nothing so broken about our neighborhood schools that they can't be fixed with some tweaks. I don't see the compelling need to reinvent the wheel.

Do some children benefit from Montessori (or Waldorf, or...)? Undoubtedly. But from my experience, I don't think it's a model that will work for the vast majority of our students. (I recognize that our Montessori experience wasn't necessarily typical. But it illustrates how badly things can go in any kind of system. Montessori is not a panacea.)

Steve B., I wish I'd known you were at the meeting... I would have looked for you and introduced myself.

One other thing: Who would pay for the transportation of kids to charter schools? Is the suggestion that the district pay for this, like they pay for special ed services, thus taking more money out of neighborhood schools? Or would the charters pay for this themselves, taking money out of their classrooms?

But more importantly, why should we pay to bus kids out of their neighborhoods to go to school, when we have existing infrastructure within walking and biking distance of most kids in PPS. We need to get back to the neighborhood school as the center of our communities, and get away from this crazy-quilt nonsense of families commuting all over hither and yon for boutique elementary schools.

The common neighborhood school is better for kids, better for the environment, and better for community. Why are people so hell-bent on destroying that structurally sound model, rather than fixing the things that are wrong with its implementation?

Actually, accepting a proposal that guarantees your slow death by strangulation would more closely fit the description of suicide.

This sounds more like a strategic retreat, you know, live on to fight another day.

I watched the hearing. I beg to differ with your take, Terry: Bobbie did not say that Ivy's withdraw would disqualify Ivy from appealing. Jollie said the law was unclear. It may become a battle of the lawyers. One thing for sure: the flowchart is not the law.

So, how about those kids anyway?

"They're simply set up as another "escape" alternative to lower class schools."

Simply an oversimplification. Certainly you'd like to demonize charter parents as bourgeois bigots who are merely looking to keep their kids out of run-down, poor schools. Unfortunately, your argument is bullshit. If you fail to acknowledge some of the pro-charter facets of education as pointed out by Peter in his excellent piece on Steve R.'s forum blog, you are simply attempting to bolster your argument with the worst possible demographic of charter schools.

Stick with the facts. Your interpretation of why people do anything regarding charters is irrelevant and off-putting.

Terry commented on Peter's piece on PPS Equity, acknowledging the good things Peter sees at some charter schools.

It's important to distinguish these things as "good" not because of the charter school's structure, but because of good methodology.

The only thing inherent in charter schools is their autonomy, which also means teachers get paid less and don't have representation.

There's nothing "good" about these schools that couldn't be implemented in a traditional neighborhood school, which I think is Terry's point.

Steve,
You are right in that autonomy is the main inherent aspect of charter schools; charters are independent public schools governed by a (501c3) non-profit board of directors rather than the local elected school board. You are wrong in linking low teacher pay and lack of representation to that autonomy. Charter school teachers can join the local collective bargaining unit OR form their own. They are not forced into collective bargaining like teachers in traditional public schools, but they have every option to participate. Also, some charters have lower salary schedules because they get less money than traditional public schools, not for any other reason.

You're right that many successful elements of charters could be implemented in traditional schools. I wish they would be. So, why aren't they?

Charter school teachers can join the local collective bargaining unit OR form their own.

How many have?

Zero is not a very high success rate. We now have over 1000 students in Portland Public Schools being taught by teachers without the security afforded by collective bargaining, and without the assurance of state certification.

You're right that many successful elements of charters could be implemented in traditional schools. I wish they would be. So, why aren't they?

Part of the reason is that people tend to flee what they don't like rather than staying and working to fix it. Those that are left don't necessarily have the means or education to help fix it.

I'm far from 100% satisfied with my neighborhood public school, and I'm far from satisfied with how PPS runs our public schools overall. But if I don't stick around to try to fix it, who will? If I move to Beaverton or send my kids to a charter, things are just going to get worse for the kids who are left behind. And that's the vast majority of our student population, whose parents don't necessarily have the time to work to make things better for everybody.

That's what I'm talking about: the greater common good. This is how civilization is built.

I'm not a fan of charter public schools or vouchers. I believe there should be equitable and economical neighborhood schools with all "stakeholders" adhering to a social contract subjugating special group interests to the greater good.

I do note a hint of flexibility and expedited process in the fact that Emerson Public Charter is the only publicly funded school in the Pearl District. I doubt if those folks would welcome sending their K-8ers to MLC with its K-12 platform.

Steve,
The fact that Portland charter school staff have not joined or formed collective bargaining is interesting to me. It is their choice, their option, yet they have not done it. Why do you think that is?
Can we blame the district for that? No. Can we blame the charter administration for that? No.

Perhaps charter schools provide choice for teachers as well as for students? Things that make you go hmmmmmmm.

It is my understanding that the vast majority of the state's charter school teachers, including those in Portland, do hold state teaching licenses and have the same rate of being "highly qualified" (NCLB) as districts. I'm all for having qualified teachers, but am not convinced that state licensure or federal "stamp of approval" constitutes quality. Do you know of any definitive link between state licensure and student engagement and/or achievement? If so, I'd love to see it.

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