Archive for ‘Open Conversations’

March 24, 2016

Baltimore City Charter Lawsuit Q&A

When charter schools filed suit against Baltimore City Public Schools in fall 2015, People for Public Schools wanted to know what was at stake. Here’s what we learned.

Source: Baltimore City Charter Lawsuit Q&A

February 3, 2014

Baltimore Teacher’s Argument for “No” Vote on New Union Contract. Discuss.

From Baltimore City teacher Corey Gaber, published here with permission in the interest of amplifying the message and opening a space for debate beyond Facebook:

BALTIMORE CITY EDUCATORS: I would like to make an argument for why you should vote NO on the upcoming teachers contract. If you find it persuasive, please forward this (or just parts of it, or change the language for your audience) to everyone the new contract impacts.

1. Article 2.4 says:
“Individuals and organizations other than the Union shall not be permitted to use the school system’s interdepartmental mail and email facilities, or the right of distribution of materials to teachers’ mailboxes.” (http://www.baltimoreteachers.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/TENTATIVE-AGREEMENT.corrected.1.14.14.pdf)

So if Baltimore Teacher Network (BTN) or Educators for Democratic Schools decide to put on another teacher forum like we did last Thursday, for discussion topics like, “investigating the new teacher contract” (note that we have to investigate it on our own because we’re not actually co-creators of the product and we’re not informed of its contents until right before it’s shoved down our throats), then WE CAN’T EVEN PUT FLYERS IN FELLOW TEACHERS MAILBOXES to educate them about the opportunity thanks to this new clause.

This is a clear violation of first amendment rights and is written so broadly that it could be used to rule out almost anyone BUT the union from sending an email to a teacher.

Note that this is also a fearful and vindictive move by union leadership who threatened to sue BTN last year for sending emails to teachers on BCPSS accounts. Marietta English believes that if teachers get organized to even discuss issues that effect them, they may one day be a threat to overthrow current leadership. Voting yes is voting for a self-imposed gag order.

2. This is a fundamentally undemocratic process. If you value what your members think about something, then you give them an opportunity to consider the new contract, provide feedback, make changes if necessary, and THEN vote on it.

This timeline excludes such possibilities, meaning our concerns are not only not being represented by our representatives. there’s not even a genuine attempt to listen to them at a crucial point.

Approving this contract sends a message that you’re OK with the content AND the process, thus ensuring that future negotiations will follow a similar course.

3. Voting down this contract would open up a space to bring new (and old) ideas into the public forum for debate. For example:

-Including a Total Student Load into the contract that limits class sizes. We are in a privileged position at SBCS, but many others around the city aren’t so lucky. My girlfriend has classes of 37 and 34 third graders. Special educators across the city have case loads that are literally impossible to provide all the services necessary to. Total Student Load limits can also trickle down to social workers, school psychologists, and others

-We still have NO right to grieve the content of an observation or evaluation. Again this is not a big deal in places with fair and caring leadership, but for those of us with experience in other city schools, unstable/idiotic/vindictive principals can ruin good teachers careers with little to no due process. This is something the Chicago teachers won, among other things, as a result of their united and powerful strike.

-For those of you who do not believe in teachers being evaluated in part based on standardized test scores, this contract further cements the policy.

Thanks to those of you who took the time to read this. Any one of these 3 points I believe are enough to vote no on their own. Together, I think they make the choice obvious. If you’ve found what I say persuasive, please talk to your friends and colleagues at other schools and feel free to forward this email to them if you’d like.

Much love,

-Corey

Connect with Corey on Twitter @DaKittenz.

October 2, 2013

You Can Help Choose the Next Baltimore City Public Schools CEO

The BCPSS School Board is in search of Baltimore’s next CEO. “Input sessions” tonight and tomorrow night will give people like you a chance to let the Board know what kind of person you’d like to see in that role. A former teacher? A business-minded bureaucrat? A union-lover? A radical reformer? A believer in community schools? A defender of the status quo? Maybe a leader proven to listen to reason?

The future of BCPSS is (sort of) in your hands. Even if you feel you have as much say over this as you do over ending the federal government shut-down, if you read this blog, I urge you to participate in this process.

Here’s how:

1) Attend an input session. Dates, times, and places are:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013
6-7:30 p.m.
DIgital Harbor High School, 1100 Covington Street

Thursday, October 3, 2013
8:30-10 a.m.
City Schools’ district office, 200 E. North Ave

6-7:30 p.m.
Frederick Douglass High School, 2301 Gwynns Falls Parkway
OR
The Enoch Pratt’s Southeast Anchor Library, 3601 Eastern Ave

2) Complete this survey. They are seeking input from as many constituents as possible.

 

 

 

August 14, 2013

Baltimore Parents Talk School Choice

So glad Maryland Morning did this report. These conversations have to happen in public more often. (I only wish I didn’t know all the panelists. Widen my circle of acquaintances, please, WYPR. I don’t know that many people.)

Listen.

 

 

February 3, 2013

This Week in Five Links (Caw! Caw!)

405px-Paul_Gustave_Dore_Raven14

  1. Greening, Hoop House at Hampden School Angers Neighbors, Adam Bednar, North Baltimore Patch, Jan. 29, 2013
  2. Too Many Teachers Are Quitting, Experts Warn, Janet Bagnall, The Montreal Gazette, Feb. 1, 2013
  3. More Lessons About Charter Schools, Editorial, New York Times, Feb. 2, 2013
  4. Dismantling Public Accountability & Transparency in the Name of Accountability & Transparency? Bruce D. Baker, School Finance 101, Feb 2, 2013
  5. Baltimore Ravens Win Super Bowl, Defeating San Francisco 49ers, 34-31, Jeff Zrebiec, Baltimore Sun, Feb. 3, 2013
January 13, 2013

This Week in Baltimore Education News

These are three of the stories that jumped out at me this week. Lots of room to opine, but I am biting my tongue. (Trying my best, anyway). I said I’d spend only an hour a week on this blog. (Trying on that score, too.)

Methadone clinic next to Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle?

Denied. No sooner than it was proposed, the appeal to the zoning board was dismissed because the woman who filed it didn’t show. Big sigh of relief from parents. Adam Bednar from North Baltimore Patch covered the story:

Methadone Clinic Proposed Near Charles Village School, January 7, 2013

Zoning Board Dismisses Methadone Clinic Request, January 8, 2013

My questions: Who represents our public schools in cases like this one? Is it up to school administrators? Where is the school district in all this? And the city, which owns public school buildings? Or is it the sole responsibility of civic organizations and PTOs? Lucky for Charles Village parents, they have a strong neighborhood association and their schools have the complete support of the good people at Greater Homewood Community Corporation. The fact that the applicant didn’t show was a stroke of good luck. But what would have happened if she had?

Michelle Rhee tangos between limelight and hot seat

Michelle Rhee’s career should matter to everyone in Baltimore because it was Harlem Park Elementary/Middle that gave this notorious education reformer her start. Rhee made news this week in two ways, proving yet again her media savvy:

1)  “The Education of Michelle Rhee” aired on PBS’s Frontline, January 8, 2013.

2) The national organization Rhee runs, Students First, put out their 2013 State Policy Report Card.

For coverage and criticism, see:

11 States Get Failing Grades on Public School Policies From Advocacy Group, Motoko Rich, New York Times, January 7, 2013

Michelle Rhee’s new state reform report card, Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, January 7, 2013

RheeFormy Logic & Goofball Rating Schemes: Comments & Analysis on the Students First State Policy Grades, Bruce D. Baker, School Finance 101, January 9, 2013

The Transform Baltimore campaign for 21st century city schools buildings forges ahead

No one who cares about education in Baltimore was watching Frontline on January 8, because something more exciting – and hopeful – was going on down on North Avenue. As BCPS CEO Andres A. Alonso, Ed.D. reported in a mass email:

Tonight, the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners voted to approve the 10-year plan we proposed in November to overhaul and modernize our entire portfolio of school buildings. Over 10 years, this plan will renovate or replace 136 school buildings, vacate 26 school buildings, relocate 12 school programs and close 17 school programs. And when complete, our students will be in the 21st-century learning environments they need and deserve, and that so many of their peers in school districts across the state and nation already enjoy.

For coverage, see:

City school board OKs 10-year facilities plan: it will rely heavily on persuading lawmakers to approve measure, Erica L. Green, Baltimore Sun, January 8, 2013

The Sun piece reports that Jimmy Gittings, president of Baltimore’s principals union, is not on board with the focus on buildings. He is concerned about the District’s mismanagement of funds. He has given voice before to his concerns about principal firings and the principal turnover rate. (In 2011, the Sun reported that only one quarter of principals remained of those who were in place when Alonso was hired.) Good that the principals’ union isn’t behind new buildings? No. Good that it’s keeping the pressure on about the destabilizing effects of high principal turnover? Yes. (It is really, really hard  to build trust with a public school principal in this climate. Maybe even harder than it is to build a new school.)

That aside, thanks to the good work of a lot of good people, the state of our school buildings is an issue engaged citizens can actually do something about. To take action, check out the new Transform Baltimore website. Buses are heading down to Annapolis for a major rally February 25, 2013. And they need some bodies to fill seats at some meetings between now and then. The website says it all. Do something.

January 6, 2013

Re:education in Baltimore’s Year in Review and a Look Ahead

Happy New Year!

This is one of those posts that is coming too late. I haven’t been blogging very much. The posts have fallen off. Despite appearances, I have not given up. But I have been reflecting on what it is I am doing with Re:education in Baltimore.

As much as I love racking up the page views with agitations like “My Kids Are Too Good for Public School…” (most viewed post ever) and “Two Thumbs Up for ‘Won’t Back Down'” (post responsible for busiest day yet), for 2013 I have committed to spending only one hour a week to produce one post – far less time than it takes to write the essays that bring one-time traffic. This blog will truly become a blog – a record of my reading and wandering across the Web. The goal is to spend much more energy IRL (that means In Real Life) meeting people f2f (that means face to face).

How did my year in blogging go? If you’re curious, check out the WordPress Annual Report for Re:education in Baltimore.

Until next week!

Edit

November 26, 2012

Baltimore Education Buffs, Mark Your Calendars

Tuesday, November 27, will be a big night for Baltimore City education buffs.

Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners – Special Meeting
6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m. 200 E. North Ave., 21202
The Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners will hold a special meeting at district headquarters to unveil the details of its 10-year plan to improve Baltimore City public school buildings.

Author Paul Tough
7:00 p.m. 212 W. Cold Spring Lane, 21210
Bolton Street Synagogue will host Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character.

I’ll be at the latter. Where will you be?

October 12, 2012

Is Teacher Quality a Bigger Influence Than Poverty? New Joel Klein Biography Sheds Some Light

New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visit
with students at Explore Charter School in Brooklyn, N.Y.
By U.S. Department of Education [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

Joel Klein may be the mastermind behind the meme that teacher quality, not a student’s socioeconomic status, is the biggest predictor of academic success. He has used his own streets-to-riches story to make the case.

In the November/December issue of The American Prospect, Richard Rothstein turns Klein’s argument on its head by telling a very different story of how Klein grew up. It’s a must read.

I suggest you start here, at the Economic Policy Institute blog, with Richard Rothstein’s own introduction to his piece. He maps out the thinking behind it. He also underscores the story’s emphasis on the role of public housing policy in segregating American cities. The impact of housing policy on public education is something no teacher can unwind. (This is as good a place as any to plug Antero Pietila’s book, Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped an American City, which untangles the history of racism, redlining, and white flight in Baltimore.) If Joel Klein succeeded because he did not grow up among poor minorities, then there has to be more to improving outcomes for American public school children than firing bad teachers. City planning, zoning, and housing policy all need to be part of the conversation.

You can read the article itself here: Joel Klein’s Misleading Autobiography: What the former chancellor of New York City schools’ sleight of hand tells us about education reform. You might also get something from this piece, “Joel Klein’s Hidden Legacy” by PBS education correspondent John Merrow, which traces Klein’s influence on American public education and education reform. That influence is multiplied by Klein’s former deputies,  Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Andres Alonso among them.

October 1, 2012

Two Thumbs Up for Won’t Back Down

The latest film from Walden Media and 20th Century Fox shows American audiences how to stage a parent revolution.

Won’t Back Down is a new feature film starring Oscar-nominated actresses Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis as two moms, Jaime and Nona, who take over their F-grade public elementary school. The school has a mathematical problem: Eighty percent of graduates can’t read. It’s personal for Jaime, whose 8-year-old daughter, Malia, is a walking statistic. The film opens with Malia’s anguished attempt to sound out a command: “Put the story in order.”

Okay.

  1. Choose an American city with a troubled public school system. Make it Pittsburgh.
  2. Cast a svelte pale-skinned girl with deep brown eyes and honey-blond hair as a FARM-eligible dyslexic second grader.
  3. Give her a feisty, single white mom who has no college degree, works two jobs, and earns less than $27,000 a year.
  4. Stick them in a class with a really bad union teacher who is “tenurized” (in non-college-educated-white-mom parlance), and therefore can never be fired.
  5. Block the exits. a) Make sure the kid can’t switch classrooms. b) Show the heartless Catholic school turn the child away for her parent’s failure to make timely tuition payments (as in Walden Media’s Waiting for Superman.) Then c) recreate the emotional trial of a lottery for a seat in a charter school. Call it Rosa Parks.
  6. When luck is less than a lady, have a linebacker of a principal (Ving Rhames) say something locker room-speechy, like, One in four Americans can’t read. If you don’t like the odds, go out there and fight for something better. You can do it. Yes you can.

But how?

  1. Read The Secret (Jaime has), and brush those teeth. Your winning smile is your greatest asset.
  2. Get the gossip. Pull the receptionist card to get in with the superintendent, then buy that chatty gal a cup of coffee. You’ll never need her again, but she’ll give you the skinny on the latest law that will enable you to takeover your failing school if only you can get half the parents and teachers to agree.
  3. Find a partner. A smart woman. A smart Black teacher whose ideals are in a cardboard box at the bottom of a closet in a Cosby Show-quality African-American home from which her soon-to-be-ex-husband has removed his clothes. Throw in a kid who is picked on for being slow. (This fact may be her fault and your plot’s undoing. Drama!)
  4. Crush on the miraculously still-teaching Teach for America alum at your F-grade school who plays the ukelele, can do the electric slide, and will rub his teeth clean for a woman with a full grown kid and no college degree. You’ll need him.
  5. Try and try and try again to get girlfriend fired up. Keep at it until you see a curl of smoke in her smile and a glint in her eye.
  6. Get to work.

This is the point when real parent organizers will start sharpening their pencils. Because from the looks of it, you need to buy three reams of paper ($15). Make that colored paper, so it looks good on camera (add $3). Copy up some petition forms (200 x $.10). Then take off from your minimum wage receptionist job so you can gather signatures when school lets out at 3 p.m. sharp (at least 8 hours at $8.48 an hour) and lure your new squeeze away from his union with shots of Jack Daniels from the bar where you work nights ($9). Use him to a) convert other teachers to your anti-union cause (his soul), and b) babysit your kid (free) while you and your partner canvass the tenements in your inner city neighborhood in the dark (priceless).

Once you’ve got your petitions signed, stage a rally. Borrow some bullhorns. Call the media. Make sure to have 220 or so custom green T-shirts ($2,200), two bounce houses ($378 plus tax), and a bakery-grade cookie the size of a Frisbee for everyone and his/her mother ($500). Reserve one plate of cookies for the crew in the local news van so they’ll run your story at the top of the hour. Don’t forget the $60 you need to replace your daughter’s backpack, which her classmate broke during an in-classroom cat fight. You’ll also need money for the two buses it takes you to get to the tony private school where the beret-wearing head of the teacher’s union (Holly Hunter) wants to pay your child’s way in a last ditch effort to prevent your becoming the downfall of the American labor movement ($9.50).

By my count, Jaime is out $3262.34 so far. Not that the film ever mentions money. (That is, not until a line item in a proposed budget almost torpedoes the entire enterprise. But I don’t want to spoil the ending.) The question of who’s paying for all this is another math problem the film never solves. For that, one has to look at “actual events.”

“Inspired by actual events” may be the most honest line in Won’t Back Down. Though the city and the cast looked and sounded a lot different. In real life, the first attempt to call “Action!” on the set of a parent trigger law-enabled takeover took place not too far from the sound stages of Hollywood. Printing up forms, canvassing, transporting people to rallies, handling the press – Parent Revolution, a nonprofit with a $1 million budget paid for by corporate philanthropists, took care of all that. (For the skinny, read Parent Trigger: Straight Outta Compton? I wrote it.) Parent Revolution told parents about the trigger and collected their signatures. Just like in the movie, they never asked about a PTA. They even fronted people matching T-shirts. They made them yellow.

Won’t Back Down is unbelievable crap. But it’s also phenomenal as a witless send up of Parent Revolution. The Los Angeles-based equivalent of a production company hammers together Potemkin villages of faux-populist uprising for audiences across America. The ruse, for which Compton was a dress rehearsal, seems designed to convince elites (Democrats for Education Reform, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, Michelle Rhee, etc.) that real people will buy the reform package that their money bought and paid for.

Brilliant. Two thumbs up.

UPDATE: Parent Revolution had a $1 million budget when it was working in Compton, per this article in Mother Jones published April 7, 2011. According to this article, published October 2, 2012 in the Hechinger Report, Parent Revolution’s budget is “roughly $3 million.”

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