Tag: Green Dot Schools


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Watch: Vicki Phillips on Teacher Quality


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As the nation’s biggest-philanthropy, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is renowned for its work fighting malaria and ending global poverty. But in the U.S., it is better-known for its…

As the nation’s biggest-philanthropy, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is renowned for its work fighting malaria and ending global poverty. But in the U.S., it is better-known for its controversial stances on reforming American public education — most-notably its support of teacher quality reform outfits such as the National Council on Teacher Quality (an organization for which I’ve done work). Most-recently, it has given $290 million to three school districts, including the school district in Memphis, Tenn., and a coalition of charter schools led by Green Dot, to develop models of what high-quality teaching should look like.

The woman currently at the head of these Gates Foundation efforts, Vicki Phillips, offered her thoughts earlier this week. Watch and consider her points on why traditional teachers compensation does little for improving the quality of education for children — especially those in the poorest communities.

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More on L.A. Unified: A special Flash gallery


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The Los Angeles Unified School District has long been renowned for its academic failure and bureaucratic intransigence. But, as I report today in National Review, the dysfunctional district is now…

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The Los Angeles Unified School District has long been renowned for its academic failure and bureaucratic intransigence. But, as I report today in National Review, the dysfunctional district is now looking to bring school choice of a sort to the district. Read more and check out the special gallery with statistics on the district’s academic and bureaucratic troubles.

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A Considerable Legacy: Steve Barr


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One man’s vision others couldn’t see or embrace becomes real.

Leading a parent revolution.

Leading a parent revolution.

Back in 2003, when I was a reporter in Los Angeles, I had begun work on a piece about Steve Barr, whose Green Dot Charter Schools was simply a handful of charter schools in Tinseltown’s gritty neighborhoods. What was fascinating at the time — which my editors could never fully grasp at that time — was the revolutionary (for L.A.) ideas he espoused: That city’s Latino students, often cast off as future gang-bangers, potential Chicano revolutionaries or likely cleaning staff, could actually achieve academic excellence, graduate from college and become contributors to the city’s — and nation’s — socioeconomic fabric; and that L.A. Unified and its sister school districts owed their taxpayers far better than substandard teaching and curricula.

These days, it seems difficult to realize how dispirited most were about the possibilities of achieving a high quality education in L.A. schools. The gamesmanship of maintaining a residence in Beverly Hills to attend the schools, as shown in the film Slums of Beverly Hills was no movie fantasy. For the poorest parents, many of whom were (and still are) undocumented immigrants, the struggle to achieve the American dream on behalf of their children and themselves made such activity the last thing on their minds. The simple idea that every neighborhood should have a great school, a concept that had already taken hold in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and New York through the charter school movement and school district overhauls, was not even considered in L.A. Unified, a district which managed to squash Jaime Escalantes and Richard Riordans alike. Especially odd given that California was the second state to legislate charters into existence.

Barr wanted to make this happen by gathering parents and focusing them on the basics. Back then, he had a few believers, notably boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya (the namesake of one of Green Dot’s schools) and the parents left behind by the region’s educational establishment. This was two years before Barr and his crew began staring down L.A. Unified, first in an unsuccessful attempt to convert Thomas Jefferson High into a charter school — and four years before he and parents at Locke High finally wrested control of that school from the district’s bureaucracy. And certainly long before national attention noted that in the City of Angels, another model for education reform — one both eschewed the inside-the-Beltway game and evolved independent of the Teach For America school — was coming to fore.

Now, with L.A. Unified talking and (mostly) walking school choice and accountability, one can now fully get what Steve Barr was doing. And as he leaves the board of the charter school organization he founded, it will be interesting to see what he does next.

By the way: More on L.A. Unified will appear in National Review Online this week.

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The Read


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All the news inside — and outside — the dropout nation. Updated throughout the day (new items and updates are marked with an *): Bad instruction + Bad parenting =…

At some point, Black America must say enough is enough when it comes to tolerating academic failure. The time must be now.

At some point, Black America must say enough is enough when it comes to tolerating academic failure. The time must be now.

All the news inside — and outside — the dropout nation. Updated throughout the day (new items and updates are marked with an *):

  • Bad instruction + Bad parenting = poor academic performance: How poorly did San Francisco’s black students in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade perform on the latest round of state tests? Reports the San Francisco Chronicle: “Special education students had slightly higher proficiency rates than black students in second-, third- and fourth-grade math as well as fourth-grade English.” No wonder why black middle class residents who can afford to move to Silicon Valley or to cities with better-performing school systems, do so. Educational genocide at work, dear folks. And this must stop.
  • Meet one of L.A. Unified’s worst dropout factories: Just north of Compton and near the famed Hancock Park, Jefferson High School has been blessed with a beautiful Art Deco building and an alumni list that includes diplomat extraordinaire Ralph Bunch, dance impresario Alvin Ailey and saxophonist Dexter Gordon. But the school has become more notorious for schoolyard brawls, being at the center of the battle between the district and charter school outfit Green Dot schools (which opened five charter schools surrounding Jefferson in response to parent complaints about the school) and pervasive academic failure. And during the 2006-07 school year, it has garnered the status of being one of the state’s worst dropout factories, according to the Associated Press. Six out of every ten freshmen leave school without a sheepskin, making it the worst-performing dropout factory among the academic roach motels run by L.A. Unified.
  • Public school choice? What public school choice*: Parents and students in Washington, D.C.’s woeful public schools just got notices that they qualify for the public school choice option under No Child, by which they can transfer from one failing school to a better one. But as the Washington Post reports, the parents already know that the choices they face in the school system are grim to none. And the notifications come out so late that the options aren’t available at all. As I’ve mentioned last week, public school choice doesn’t exist for most parents and students in any form.
  • Building for nothing: Back in 2001, Milwaukee Public Schools embarked on a $102 million building spree in order to create local schools and in order to eschew the more destructive elements of school busing. This despite the fact that the district, like so many urban systems, has seen three decades of declining enrollment. The results, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a three-part series, is, well, predictable: Students are still being bused to schools outside their respective neighborhoods; new additions and old buildings are sitting half-empty or — for the shame of the district — being rented out to private schools. And combo efforts such as building a church alongside another public school has gone awry, with both students and parishioners taking the hit.
  • The Milwaukee schools experience offers another reason for a new model: Over the past three years, I’ve floated something I call the Hollywood model for public education under which local school districts would move from becoming operators of schools and masters of academic instruction — a job which many people argue (and the evidence suggests), they don’t do so well — to becoming a dormitory authority similar to the state agency used in New York state to build colleges. Similar to the major motion picture studios (which rarely produce films, but focus on distribution and finance), school district would construct buildings, provide school lunch services and handle transportation services on behalf of public charter schools and private schools(none of which have the scale to do those jobs efficiently). The charter schools and private schools would become, essentially, become like small-shingle Hollywood studios, handling the instructional work that districts used to do. This embraces public education as being a system of financing the best options for every student, no matter their race or income, while maximizing the public dollars that are in place. The reality is that public school districts are actually pretty good in constructing buildings and moving people around, not so good at academic instruction or data systems. A Hollywood model of education may not be such a bad idea after all.
  • Speaking of building: Public school officials in New Orleans plans on building 28 new school buildings while selling off or otherwise jettisoning 50 others as part of a $685 million plan funded by FEMA funds, according to the Times-Picayune. The key part of the plan: A separate authority that would essentially build and manage the buildings on behalf of both the existing traditional public school system, the Recovery District of charters and traditional public schools run by the state and other entities. Essentially, this could be the Hollywood model at work — if the penchant of officials for corruption and sleaze  doesn’t trump the goal of efficient building.
  • Better middle schools, New York style: The Daily News offers some suggestions on middle schools that aren’t “middle of the pack.” Check it out.
  • A challenge*: Jay Greene asks the Broader, Bolder crowd to put their words to practice by coming up with a test model of their proposed community school concept. Save for Leo Casey’s response and a small missive from Lawrence Mishel, no response has been forthcoming from the group in response to other criticisms of their anti-accountability plan.
  • From my end*, Broader, Bolder is right to note that a better approach to the current public welfare system — one that offers some form of wrap-around help for families in need — is probably needed for the children coming out of poverty-minded homes. But schools cannot abdicate their responsibility for educating these children and preparing them for higher education and life. Good teachers can overcome other socioeconomic problems. But good instruction and rigorous curricula must first be provided by schools in order for this to happen.
  • And feel free* to check out my latest piece for The American Spectator, this time, on how Reason magazine’s rating of Chicago as the most nanny-statelike city in America doesn’t fully consider all the problems of the City of Broad Shoulders. For most people, the Second City’s status as first in the nation when it comes to corruption — along with its underperforming schools — is far more disconcerting than its anti-liberty coddling and toddling.

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