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September 10, 2008

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Rose - keep in mind that charters at the K-8 level get 80% of what mainstream schools get. They simply don't have the budgets to provide the kinds of services you mention in-house. They must, however, make these services available to students with IEP's. So does it matter if the service is in-house or comes from a specialist from PPS? It wouldn't matter to me. If either of my kids get IEP's in the future and they are enrolled at a charter, I would want them to get the necessary services.

Marcia - you wrote, "Maybe so...however...the charter schools can still decide who gets to stay and who has to go if kids are just too difficult to deal with."

But what school is this not true at? Every school has grounds for expulsion. Trillium, for example, expels kids for selling drugs, bomb threats, and bringing a gun to school. I imagine other PPS schools would do the same thing.

I agree that some charters like KIPP and Edison schools can get rid of kids that are "too difficult to deal with." But can you give examples of PPS charters where kids were kicked out for this reason? This is not a baiting question. I'd really like to know.

Just a little fact checking here...

Last year, Trillium showed up 64.97% white, with no other ethnicity coming in above 7.64%. 17.52% of Trillium students are listed as "unspecified/other" (not to be confused with the .96% who checked "multiple"), which might suggest an attempt by parents to make the school look more diverse than it actually is (only 1.21% of students district-wide checked "unspecified/other").

But even at 64.97%, Trillium is whiter than PPS neighborhood schools in total (55% white), and dramatically whiter than the Jefferson cluster where it sits. You've got to go to the Cleveland, Grant, Lincoln, or Wilson clusters to find many schools as white as Trillium, especially if you consider the actual figure is probably closer to 75-80% white when you account for the 17.52% unspecified.

Rose compared Trillium to Ockley Green down the street, but a look at the total cluster demographics gives even better perspective.

Jefferson cluster students are 78% non-white, and 75% of them qualify for free and reduced lunch. 39.3% of Trillium students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

To call somebody a bigot because they point out that race is a factor in the charter school debate is more than a bit ironic. And saying you would be a "bad parent" to keep your kids in neighborhood PPS schools directly implies that those of us who choose to do so are bad parents.

Ultimately this debate should not be about personal choice. It is a matter of public policy.

When my family was considering a move to Beaverton for more equitable neighborhood schools, there was one person in particular who posted on my old blog under the moniker "NoPo Parent" who ultimately got to us.

He was absolutely correct when he wrote:

We all need to stay. And fight. Yes, it will be messy and it will take a long time. But we need to stick together and raise our collective voices. Or we’ll all survive alone in our hermetically-sealed, suburban autonomous bubbles, safe in the knowledge that our kids are fine. But wondering about the fates of others.

I would ask him to substitute "charter school" for "suburban" in the above passage. ;)

The public policy issue of what I call "assessment obsession" in PPS deserves serious attention, and it appears to be a major factor in this most recent charter school proposal.

I've got more on the policy side of this debate on PPS Equity.

Doris and Wacky, I stand corrected on both counts. There is another long time, well-respected poster who fled PPS for the 'burbs and I got her mixed up with Wacky Mommy. Blessed if I can remember her pseudonym now.

Steve - as you know, I have lots of mixed emotions about being involved in a charter. I posted my thoughts on this over on PPS Equity and on my blog. But here are some bullets from those posts (in case you don't feel like reading them again or reading them in their entirety):

1) Does making the "choice" schools available to all parents make the other schools better? Absolutely not. Do all parents and children benefit from the "choice" schools? Absolutely not. Rather, other parents and their kids become your competition as you scramble and beg for the few crumbs thrown out. It's a sickening and heart-breaking process. It is morally and ethically stinky. You know that if you are lucky and get in, your kid is going to make it. You know that other kids will not get in. You are aware of this. And still you participate in the "choice" process.

2) I participate in this "choice" process because I see it as the lesser of two evils. I'm sure this looks libertarian or selfish or racist. I see it as doing what is best for my kids.

I know you went through a similarly painful experience in looking at your own neighborhood school and choosing to send your kids to another school. This is the Faustian bargain of school choice.

But I also know that you, like me and No Po Parent, are not abandoning the fight. From my perspective, I see charters as a short-term solution, albeit a seriously flawed one. I'll continue to advocate for equity and excellence across the board in PPS. But you also know that had the charters not existed in PPS, we'd be homeschooling my daughter right now. Ultimately, I think it's better to be in the system and to change it from within.

We'll have to agree to disagree what being "in the system" means. From the PPS perspective, home schooling, going to a charter school or moving out of district mean the same thing: the loss of state and local investment in neighborhood schools and their certified, represented staff.

Why do Charter schools always (or most always) have such silly names? You know what I'm talking about.

My son went to Trillium Charter School for 5th grade the first year it opened - instead of Alameda Elementary, because we thought our family would fit in more at Trillium - we thought Alameda was too white, too rich, etc. and we liked the proposed curriculum (peaceful conflict resolution, kids learning what they're interested in, no letter grades, K-12, etc.) at Trillium.

Our son is a pretty unique guy (he has OCD, and yet is funny, smart and popular). It was a difficult year and by the end they simply said they couldn't serve him anymore at Trillium, so we enrolled him at Beaumont Middle School for 6th grade, which was also a disaster in many ways (disrespectful staff and kids, bullying, etc.).

We then forked out the big bucks for a local private middle/high school (Pacific Crest Community School) for the rest of 6th, and then 7th grade.

After attending this small private school, all of my son's "issues" seemed to disappear - he thrived academically and socially, stopped taking his medication for OCD, and we knew he was ready to attend Trillium again.

We applied for him to attend 8th grade at Trillium, and they NEVER contacted us, did not return calls or emails, and finally, the secretary said the 8th grade was full (which was a lie).
We paid for our son to attend Montessori School instead that year (we had given up our space at Pacific Crest), and applied again at Trillium for 9th grade - this time we included a personal letter with our application.

The week before school started we received a letter from the director of Trillium that stated that our son could not be admitted because he was on an IEP (he was not!) and because he had attended so many different schools since his time at Trillium. Basically, the director of Trillium was saying that they didn't want him, didn't want to deal with his OCD, and they came up with an excuse.

So, for 9th grade, my son went back to Pacific Crest and continued to thrive there, but we could no longer afford to send him to private school, so, the following year, for 10th grade, he applied again to Trillium, this time including his school records (including very high academic scores) and three letters of reference from teachers, one from an employer, and one letter from us.

We didn't hear anything back for months - we called and left at least a dozen messages, we emailed daily, we went in, etc. and nobody was ever available to talk to us - nobody ever acknowledged our extensive application with all the letters and records, and basically they just pretended like we didn't exist because they didn't personally like my son or want the (perceived) hassle of his enrollment.

This can't be right. There is no way to prove to them that my son is "good enough" for them. He excels in academics, he's a kind and responsible and honest and creative teenager, and yet he's not good enough for Trillium Charter School? I'm very offended. The charter is just like a private school where the director gets to decide who is enrolled or not based on their whim, and they are accountable to no one.

After a certain point, she became impassive, detached utterly from him

So cute! I already like you on FB and also get your posts on Google Reader. :)

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