Saturday, April 25, 2009

I can't help but think that the only reason math is looked at in the above mentioned studies is because it is easily quantifiable. I mean, it's math. There are answers. The only way that teachers can deviate from right and wrong in math is if they are teaching theorems in geometry or if they are looking at the work a student has done and are gauging from the work how many of the math concepts are being absorbed and applied.

The intangibles in the for-profit school models, however, are anything but quantifiable at times:

A New Orleans charter school board's recent move to end its partnership with the company that managed a pair of schools marks the latest soured marriage between a charter board and a for-profit operator.

Although for-profit school management companies are proliferating in some parts of the country, in the past few years New Orleans charter boards have ultimately parted ways with three of five for-profit companies brought in to run the daily operations of their schools. In a fourth case, the school appears to be struggling to attract enough students.

Budget constraints and competition among charters for students and staff pose huge challenges to for-profit operators in New Orleans' education landscape, reshaped dramatically after Hurricane Katrina.

In the most recent episode, the New Orleans Charter Schools Foundation decided this spring not to renew its contract with The Leona Group, which since 2006 has run the New Orleans Free Academy and McDonogh City Park Academy. The foundation's board also voted to close the Free Academy at the end of the year, citing low enrollment, weak finances and poor academic performance. McDonogh City Park will remain open, probably operated directly by the foundation.

I am still of the apparently old-fashioned mind that "sink or swim" in public education on this scale is only educating us all in a massive social Darwinist experiment with parents, children, and teachers as the guinea pigs. And the fingers will keep getting pointed at anybody other than the folks who came up with this whole thing in the first place.

To wit:
State officials will blame budget constraints, teachers' unions that want too much, federal No Child Left Behind requirements, and a school board pre-8-29 that stole from the schools it was meant to serve. The failing charter itself will have its failure blamed on an inability to rustle up large enrollment numbers, a bad relationship with a parent company, and poor academic performance. The charter's administrators will pass that blame on to teachers, who weren't teaching well enough to attract students that would stay, who couldn't establish a superhuman mentor/therapist/counseling/advocating role with each student along with their daily duties of imparting reading, writing, and arithmetic skills needed to pass every standardized test on the planet and show what a great school it desperately needed to be to survive. Teachers, beset by the fact that, despite all assurances that they are a part of a noble profession, they are nearly always squeaky wheels getting the grease no matter what the public education model in effect is, will move on - if they are in the Teach for America program, it will be sooner rather than later and it most likely won't be in education. Parents will end up feeling bewildered by the fact that they are now in a world of even fewer "choices" for their children's education, and they are still in a sphere of blame in which they are now very much roped into as part of the whole process, because every home with children needs responsible parents, and if the parents shirk in that responsibility in any way, they are in need of being dragged off to CPS if they don't get their kids into an educational environment that is right for their little darlings and brings them up as upstanding college-educated citizens that will bring more prestige to the schools they leave behind with their academic successes (well, it's worst-case scenario. Pardon me, please, it's a rant). The threat of being thought of as anything less than a dutiful, sacrificing parent by all outside parties, and the sad fact that the public schools in their charter guises are still not up to what they should be, can lead to loads of money being shelled out for pre-Kindergarten programs and further grade levels in private schools that eclipse the then-immense sums that had to be paid up to the art school I attended fifteen-plus years ago as a college undergrad. Conscientious parents who haven't opted out of this go-round yet bang the war drums against those responsible for public education at the highest levels. Officials scramble and cobble together half-assed plans based, once again, on budget constraints, the teachers' unions, federal No Child Left Behind requirements, and a school board pre-8-29 that stole from the schools it was meant to serve - was that mentioned already about that school board? It was a bad, bad thing that won't ever happen again. The state has control of that funding now, in concert with these for-profit companies, and if it doesn't work out, the company melts away, as does the bad school. Run along now and explore your choices!

Let me rephrase that: all of us in some way are contributing to this state of affairs. But, to twist Animal Farm around a bit, some of us are contributing more than others. And I think it is the folks at the top who are doing that and trying to slough off their responsibilities onto those who are not given the resources to take on the extra stuff thrown onto them. Pay teachers more, put more of our taxes into public education, and take good care of those monies. It's a start.

Pardon me while I go lie down. I'm feeling dizzy.

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