Saturday, April 09, 2011

Over at the New Orleans Metblog, Rayna Nielsen has begun to blog about her experiences starting her child in a local charter school and has already run into a financial fact of life that didn't exist when my son was starting:
Since the school lost federal funding for it’s Pre-K program last year they were forced to cut the K-3 grade all together and charge tuition for K-4. We will be heading into K-4 next school year so we will be paying tuition. The up side to this over private schools in which we would also be paying tuition this year is that every year after next is free. That makes paying $4,570 by July 15th much more appealing if not actually easier.>
The long and the short of last night’s meeting was we all have to go to an independent website ( type in our financial information and that will tell us if we are eligible for reduced tuition. I am pretty sure we are not eligible though I will be plugging our numbers into that little website just to be 100%. They also mentioned a loan that is available but of course couldn’t really answer any questions on that since it is “official bank stuff”. The whole shebang lasted half an hour and I didn’t learn a single thing I couldn’t have learned easier from an e-mail.
May she and all other parents negotiating the current system of schools landscape here only go from strength to strength...which will be sorely needed in negotiating any bureaucratic speedbumps along the public education way.

Speaking of those speedbumps: Read through this New York Times article on Middle School 223's triumphs, travails, and daily battles in the Bronx.  Yes, it's long, but it's good.:
In certain respects, 223 is a monument to (former NYC schools chancellor Joel) Klein’s success: empower the right principals to run their own schools and watch them bloom. Thanks to Klein, (MS 223 principal Ramon) González has been able to avoid having teachers foisted on him on the basis of seniority. He has been able to create his own curriculums, micromanage his students’ days (within the narrow confines of the teachers’ union contract, anyway) and spend his annual budget of $4 million on the personnel, programs and materials he deems most likely to help his kids. 
And yet even as school reform made it possible for González to succeed, as the movement rolls inexorably forward, it also seems in many ways set up to make him fail. The grading system imposed by Klein that has bestowed three consecutive A’s on González also disqualifies him from additional state resources earmarked for failing schools. The ever-growing number of charter schools, often privately subsidized and rarely bound by union rules, that Klein unleashed on the city skims off the neighborhood’s more ambitious, motivated families. And every year, as failing schools are shut down around González, a steady stream of children with poor intellectual habits and little family support continues to arrive at 223. González wouldn’t want it any other way — he takes pride in his school’s duty to educate all comers — but the endless flow of underperforming students drags down test scores, demoralizes teachers and makes the already daunting challenge of transforming 223 into a successful school, not just a relatively successful one, that much more difficult.... 
...González prefers to think of himself as a community activist. His vision for 223 is in some respects anachronistic in the era of school reform. Klein’s animating belief, and surely what he will best be remembered for, is the notion that while low-income families may not be able to choose what neighborhood they live in, they should nonetheless be able to choose what school their children attend. It was toward that end that he brought more than 100 charter schools to New York — with at least 100 more still on the way — deliberately concentrating them in high-poverty areas like Harlem and the South Bronx to create competition for existing public schools. Without ever quite saying so, Klein was agitating against the very idea of the neighborhood school with deep roots in a community, which is precisely what González is now trying to revive and reinvent. 
Broadly speaking, the modus operandi of most charter schools, or at least those in impoverished neighborhoods, is to separate children from their presumably malignant environments. González objects to this in principle. “I don’t want to be part of the history of taking talented kids out of the neighborhoods and telling them to move on,” he says. More practically, he doesn’t think it’s a realistic objective, considering 223’s population. “Most of our kids are never going to leave this area just for financial reasons; they can’t afford to live anywhere else, they don’t have the guidance, whatever. So how do we make those places better so that their kids aren’t going through the same cycle?" 
Given his and Klein’s conflicting agendas, it’s no surprise that González is critical of many of the policies of education reform. He has no problem with schools being held accountable for their performance, but he worries that the reform movement’s infatuation with competition will undermine the broader goal of improving public education — that by grading schools against their peers you are encouraging them to hoard their successful innovations rather than to share them. He is concerned as well about the fact that the new principals being sent, disproportionately, into disadvantaged neighborhoods have little experience with or connection to the communities they’re supposed to serve. And he is made uncomfortable by all of the educational experimentation, the endless stream of pilot programs, being implemented in neighborhoods like his. “I’m just afraid that our kids are being sacrificed while everyone is learning on the job,” he says. “This is not some sort of urban experiment. These are kids’ lives we're talking about.”
Think John White would bring that sort of thinking with him to the RSD? That'll be about as likely as White hanging at his namesake bar in the Quarter on a regular basis.

Yeah, all right, all serious links make this blogger a dull let's cut this stuff with a YouTube, shall we?

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