Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Obama’s Education Secretary: ‘We Should Welcome Good Public Charter Schools’

During one of his final weeks on the job, President Barack Obama’s secretary of education called for education leaders to unite around support for charter schools.

“If we believe that public schools will always be the bedrock of American democracy and opportunity—as I do—we should welcome good public charter schools as laboratories for innovation that can benefit all of education,” Secretary of Education John King said at an event Wednesday hosted by the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C.

“Now is the moment to set aside policy differences that divide us,” he added.

Since their inception more than two decades ago, charter schools have been a major point of contention between politicians, educators, policy experts, special-interest groups, and others.

In recent weeks, liberals have attacked President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, for her support of charter schools. DeVos played a major role advancing charter schools in Michigan since the 1990s and encouraged her husband to start a charter school in Grand Rapids.

“Charter schools are another choice—a very valid choice,” DeVos said in a 2013 interview with Philanthropy magazine. “As we work to help provide parents with more educational choices, it is always with the assumption that charter schools are part of the equation.”

Charter schools are public schools that are open and free to all students. They operate with a mix of local, state, and federal funding, based on student enrollment.

In exchange for more freedom to be innovative with decisions involving curriculum, culture, budgeting, hiring, and firing, charter schools are held to a greater accountability for performance.

Instead of being managed by a traditional school board, the majority of charter schools are run by a nonprofit, while 13 percent are managed by a for-profit company.

Recently, they’ve come under increased attack by civil rights groups including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Black Lives Matter, who see them as part of a greater attempt to privatize public education.

In October, the NAACP called for an immediate moratorium on charter school expansion, arguing that charter schools divert money at the expense of public schools and don’t have to abide by the same level of transparency and accountability standards as public schools.

King, however, called the fight between charter and public schools “a false choice.”

“Let’s also resist a false choice between allowing public charter schools and supporting traditional district public schools,” he said, adding:

Our primary concern shouldn’t be the management structure of schools, it should be whether schools serve all students well. Some of the best schools in places like Newark, Los Angeles, and the Rio Grande Valley are public charter schools that are closing achievement gaps and preparing graduates to finish college.

Instead of fighting, King said traditional public schools and charter schools should join forces.

Already, he added, this is happening in some parts of the country, where charters and district schools are forming partnerships, “allowing them to learn and be inspired by one another.”

Charter schools in many urban areas have shown a remarkable ability to outperform traditional public schools and close the achievement gap between white and black students. But not every charter school succeeds, and for those that don’t, King said, they must be shut down.

“Supporters of public charter schools, myself included, must recognize the grave threat that ineffective charter schools pose to the entire sector. We must demand that charter authorizers set a high bar for granting a charter, rigorously monitor the academic and performance of charters, and close failing schools,” he said.

Just as important of a task, he added, is turning around ineffective district schools.

We must be equally rigorous in monitoring the performance and working to turn around the performance of ineffective district schools. Supporting public charter schools and supporting district schools means demanding quality for both.

King was born in Brooklyn to African-American and Puerto Rican parents who both died before he was even a teen. He has credited his teachers in New York City with stepping in and helping him succeed.

Before working under Obama at the Department of Education, King was heavily involved in the charter school world, having co-founded Roxbury Prep in Boston and Uncommon Schools, which now has nearly 50 charter schools in six regions.

Instead of attacking charter schools, King said, “We’ve got to lift up examples of schools that are doing the right thing … and say that’s where we need the charter sector to go.”


University of Pennsylvania Students Rip Down Shakespeare’s Portrait for Diversity’s Sake

After a vote by faculty, inclusion-deluded kids replace iconic portrait with that of a black lesbian poet

Let us count the ways privileged college students on American campuses are whining — still! — about the results of the presidential election. At The University of Pennsylvania, even the esteemed Shakespeare is taking a hit.

A group of students removed a portrait of the legendary playwright — widely regarded as the greatest writer and dramatist the world has ever known — and replaced it with a photo of Audre Lorde, a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.”

In her poem, “The Brown Menace or Poem to the Survival of Roaches,” Lorde “likened blacks to cockroaches, hated, feared, and poisoned by whites,” wrote poetryfoundation.org. Poetry critic Sandra M. Gilbert remarked that “it’s not surprising that Lorde occasionally seems to be choking on her own anger.”

So in the name of safe spaces and political correctness — actual education at American universities is once again trampled.

Students took the large Shakespeare portrait from the walls of Fisher-Bennett Hall and delivered it to the office of Penn English professor Jed Etsy, after an English Department town hall meeting on Dec. 1 in which students voted to remove the portrait.

The portrait has resided over the main staircase of Fisher-Bennett — home to Penn's English Department — for years, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian. Esty emailed English majors and minors on Dec. 8 with a statement.

"We invite everyone to join us in the task of critical thinking about the changing nature of authorship, the history of language, and the political life of symbols," Esty wrote.

When are parents going to stop paying for colleges that don't have the strength of any convictions? The adult educators in colleges and universities are there to contextualize current events for students, and to teach their chosen subject matter. They're not preparing students for the adult world by kowtowing to them.

College sophomore and English major Katherine Kvellestad said replacing Shakespeare with Lorde sends a positive message. "You don't necessarily need to have a portrait of Shakespeare up," Kvellestad said. "He's pretty iconic."

Following that logic, should we then take down our monuments to Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson? They're pretty iconic, too. (Alas, some of these have been taken down.)

College junior Mike Benz, also an English major, thought the portrait switch was "bold and admirable." "It is a cool example of culture jamming," the millennial told The Pennsylvanian. Benz also said college curriculums typically focus on European and Western ideals, and other works can sometimes be ignored or set aside.

That's because they are not part of the curriculum — but let's not let that little fact get in the way of student outrage.

Both Benz and Kvellestad said they were pleased that the English department voted to remove the portrait, despite the fact that it was ultimately the students who took it down.


Teach for Australia: Turnbull government provides new funding to extend controversial program

This is a clone of an American programme.  The American version has had some success in getting bright university graduates into teaching

A program that parachutes "career changers" and high-achieving university graduates without teaching degrees into disadvantaged high schools will continue for at least another four years thanks to a funding boost from the Turnbull government.

The government will announce in Monday's mid-year economic and fiscal outlook (MYEFO) that it will spend $20.5 million to fund another two cohorts of the Teach for Australia program.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said there was growing evidence that the Teach For Australia program is making a ...
Education Minister Simon Birmingham said there was growing evidence that the Teach For Australia program is making a positive impact on and in schools.  Photo: Wayne Taylor

Launched by the Gillard government in 2009, the highly competitive program provides non-teachers with 13 weeks of intensive training before they begin a two-year classroom placement at a regional or low-socio-economic school. While teaching, the participants work towards a master's of teaching degree.

The program has proved controversial since its inception with teachers' unions decrying it as an "expensive distraction" that undermines the teaching profession. Victoria, Western Australia, the ACT and the Northern Territory have signed on to the program but NSW, the state with the country's biggest teaching workforce, has steadfastly refused to join.

The new funding, which runs until the 2020-21 financial year, will allow up to 300 more new teachers to participate in the program.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said: "There is a growing body of evidence that the Teach For Australia program is making a positive impact on and in schools.

"The data shows that after two years in the classroom almost 90 per cent of principals considered TFA graduates to be more effective teachers than other graduate teachers with the same level of classroom experience."

Senator Birmingham said the program focuses on intensive mentoring, classroom observation and professional development – the key features of high-ranking schooling systems of Hong Kong, South Korea, Shanghai and Singapore.

Melodie Potts Rosevear, chief executive of Teach for Australia said: "This funding means we will be able to continue the program and get hundreds of excellent people into where they are needed most."

Teach for Australia received more than 1500 applications for just 130 positions in its most recent round of offers.

Ms Potts Rosevear said participants were evenly split between those who had recently finished university, young professionals and "career changers" who decided to become teachers late in life. Participants come from a wide range of backgrounds including aerospace engineering, atmospheric physics and zoology. There is a particular focus on graduates with science, engineering, technology and mathematics skills given Australia's poor performance in these areas in recent international studies.

Ms Potts Rosevear said 65 per cent of those who complete the program remained in classrooms as teachers in the long term.

She said she hoped NSW would join the program and that it would become truly national. NSW Board of Studies president Tom Alegounarias has said the state opposes the program because student interests should not be "compromised for the convenience of short-term packaged approaches".

The government has commissioned an evaluation of the program which is due to report next year.

A recent review by the Australian Council for Educational Research found Teach for Australia was "generally successful", had a high retention rate and that participant schools had been "very positive" about the calibre of the associates assigned to them. But it found the program was "very costly given the very small numbers of associates involved".


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