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Don't save bad schools--terminate them

This year's hot education topic is fixing what is broken. The first sentence of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan's July 22 speech was: "Today, I want to focus on the challenge of turning around our chronically low-achieving schools." It is a noble quest I have long supported. But I have come to wonder if it might be a big waste of time and money. Most efforts to save such places have been failures.

Why not just close them down and start fresh? Why kill ourselves trying to root out the bad habits of failing schools?

The latest push in that direction comes from Andy Smarick, a University of Maryland summa cum laude who has worked in the Maryland legislature and the U.S. Congress, started a charter school, did a stint in the Bush Education Department and now is a distinguished visiting fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Instititute in Washington. He has written a piece in the Winter issue of the journal Education Next, "The Turnaround Fallacy," that offers the best argument to date for ending our useless rearrangement of desks and jobs at bad schools and beginning a new emphasis on start-ups.

Smarick marshals a lot of numbers, and they are depressing:

"In the first year of California’s Academic Performance Index, the state targeted its lowest-performing 20 percent of schools for intervention. After three years, only 11 percent of the elementary schools in this category (109 of 968) were able to make “exemplary progress.” Only 1 of the 394 middle and high schools in this category reached this mark. Just one-quarter of the schools were even able to accomplish a lesser goal: meeting schoolwide and subgroup growth targets each year.

"In 2008, 52 Ohio schools were forced to restructure because of persistent failure. Even after several years of significant attention, fewer than one in three had been able to reach established academic goals, and less than half showed any student performance gains."

As a charter school booster, Smarick knows that the most successful charter networks have concentrated on starting schools from scratch. The Knowledge Is Power Program, the subject of my last book, opens a fifth grade in an inner city neighborhood, adds a sixth grade the next year and so on until they have a 5th-8th grade middle school where everyone is steeped in the KIPP methods of teamwork, lively classes and longer school days and years. KIPP's one attempt to turnaround an existing public school, in Denver, was a failure. KIPP said at the time they could not find a school leader up to the challenge, which is another way of admitting such a job may be beyond mere mortals.

Susan Schaeffler, the founder and head of the successful KIPP schools in D.C. (all of them start-ups), once told me she thought she could fix one of the worst regular schools in the city if she had the power -- which she has at KIPP -- to hire and fire teachers at will. But as Michelle Rhee is discovering, such powers are unlikely to come to urban principals, at least not to the degree that Schaeffler enjoys at KIPP.

In my recent visit with Secretary Duncan, I asked him about Smarick's piece. He said he thought we needed to do both start-ups and turnarounds to help kids who need a good education. In some neighborhoods of Chicago, where he ran the public school system, the local schools are so crowded and available space in the neighborhood so rare, that closing one school and sending children to start-ups of their choice would not work.

Okay, but some start-ups have succeeded in abandoned school buildings. Many cities, such as New York and D.C., have room for start-ups, and have had successful ones, some of them charters and some run by the school districts.

Perhaps Duncan should move more of his $4.35 billion in stimulus money in that direction. I can think of one politically advantageous way for the Obama administration to make this work, and win support from all sides of the education debate. Look for it here, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. I will be feeding the blog next week from California, where I will overseeing the education of my 11-month-old grandson, poor kid.

By Jay Mathews  | November 17, 2009; 5:30 AM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  Andy Smarick, Arne Duncan, start-up schools, turnaround schools  
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Comments

The reason shutting down a failing district school is all but impossible is because the school exists for the purposes of the school district which has many more purposes then educating kids.

How will shutting down the school effect the personnel situation? High-seniority teachers will bump low-seniority teachers all around the district. Bus schedules will have to be revised. Maintenance budgets will have to reworked. What effect does closing this school have on capital improvements? What about the inevitable angry parents?

Shutting down a school is complicated and painful. That means someone, or someones, who aren't deterred by the prospect of complicated, painful decisions has to be in charge and even then there's no guarantee they'll succeed. Some of the complication and pain comes from people who don't want the school shut down for reasons not associated with the school's educational quality.

So if schools are part of a district shutting down a rotten school is, by the nature of school districts, a difficult task.

Interestingly enough, the presence of a school district makes shutting down rotten charters more difficult as well.

If the only alternative to the charter is the district school you just pulled your kid out of how lousy does the charter have to be before the district school starts to look good?

In both cases it's the district, and its necessarily broad focus on issues not specific to education, that's the source of the problem.

Posted by: allenm1 | November 17, 2009 8:46 AM | Report abuse

If by shutting down a school you mean firing everyone and hiring entirely new staff for the next September, then perfect. I learned recently that when the top-flight principal left my childhood elementary school within 2 years all the good teachers quit, turning the school from excellent when my parents bought their house to failing by the time I was in second grade. Bad principals transform their school staffs all the time, why not try to start from scratch?

Posted by: bbcrock | November 17, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

why do we continually fall for this fallacy that the state of US education is a byproduct of poor labor?

I am from Washington, DC. My local high school would have been Anacostia if i did not attend private school. Anacostia is worst today than in my day 30-years ago. Anacostia was failing then and now not because of teachers, principals or maintenance, but because of the students. Yes, the students. not because they did not have opportunities in elementary or junior high, but because they did not prioritize education and it was not a point of emphasis at home. the school system did not emphasize education to the point where the environment was required to be conducive to learning like my private school. This is the issues impacting education in america. Because it would force people to be accountable, we NEVER speak to the role of the STUDENT in our education mess. yet we play this game like there's some easy miracle out there.

So close a troubled/failing school. Send the kids from any of these failing schools to schools in Montgomery or Fairfax, which has some of the beter schools in the nation. What will happen? I would bet the odds are the once good school would decline overall and eventually fail over time! this scenario would never work because the parents at those schools know the truth and would noot stand for kids coming that did not value education and would be disruptive of the educational process.

The issue is not solely school buildings, teachers, principals, etc. The issue is the challenges and perspectives in these sudents lives. Poverty, hunger, homelessness, addiction, abuse, just outright dysfunction and the lack of appreciation or understanding of education. All our social ills are manifested in our schools! Thus we see our nation's failings and we try to paint a different picture or point the truth in another direction.

I am as liberal or open-minded as they come, but the truth is these BS approaches are not working nor addressing the real issues!!!!

Posted by: oknow1 | November 17, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

oknow1, you are blaming minors for work adults should be doing and you wonder why people disagree with you?

In my son's first year at DCPS I heard a teacher BLAME FIVE YEAR OLDS for her classroom's disorganization. Yes, she blamed 5 year olds for work and adult should be doing.

We pay people to do a job and they won't accept personal responsibility for everything that occurs in their classroom, blaming the principals or, guffaw, central administration. When will teachers finally accept personal responsibility for their students' performance?

I'm a manager and my raise is based on the productivity of my reports. It's not new and it's not rocket science and I take personal responsibility for it.

The end.

Posted by: bbcrock | November 17, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

"work an adult should be doing"

Posted by: bbcrock | November 17, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I think Jay is absolutely right.

Here's a radical thought: The purpose of schools is to educate the children who attend them. If a school or schools aren't doing that, then there is no reason they should exist.

What the education industry does, continually, is excuse its failures by claiming that the children are in some way defective. Unmotivated. Home-deprived. Disabled. Non-English speakers. Etc., forever. Then it comes up with ineffective programs and services to fix the children's defects and defends its failures in that area by harping on the defects it has been allowed to define.

As long as one school, somewhere, succeeds in educating these defective children well, excuses for other schools not doing so should be flat out rejected.

Imagine what would happen if doctors continuously ignored research showing what works for condition X, and then blamed patient deaths on the patients' failures to respond appropriately to their ineffective treatments.

Or look at what happened when Microsoft came up with a miserable new operating system - Vista. Users hated it; people and corporations just refused to buy it after learning about others' unpleasant and unproductive experiences with it. Microsoft didn't get to define the folks who didn't' like and didn't want to use Vista as defective and require them to undergo remediation to learn how to appreciate it appropriately. Why should large portions of the education industry be allowed to do so in regard to children?

Posted by: deealpert | November 17, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Mathews, I just can't figure out why you confine your sagacity to just America's public education system. Your philosophy seems relevant in so many bigger ways.

For instance, about a year ago the banking system collapsed, proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it had failed. And rather than the US taxpayer financing a banks turnaround to the tune of $700 billion, they should have, as you recommend for inner-city schools, been terminated! Terminating the banks, has a nice ring to it don't you think?

The economic system we live under is now producing massive amd historic levels of unemployment and misery that clearly indicate it has failed. I take it you are with me on this. No more economic stimulus or other efforts to turn the economy around. Terminate it!

Posted by: natturner | November 17, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

the obvious problem in our schools are the kids and the poor parenting ,look at foreign schools and how kids there behave,usually there are uniforms,they behave,and that's why they learn,,,,,they aren't texting each other,killing each other,groping each other...they are learning....and it's the parental idiots who cause this and then when Johnny or Shaniqua can't read..they blame the school.....if you had imposed discipline on Johnny and Shaniqua they would be able to read!!!

Posted by: kiler616 | November 17, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Today's innocent posters need a dose of reality--let's say, a week substituting in a bad school. By Wednesday they will realize that the major cause of bad schools is bad students, kids who have no self-control, creatures of bad parenting and bad genes. It is delusional to imagine that even the best teachers can teach them. Over time the problem can be reduced, if not solved, by making welfare contingent on sterilization.

Posted by: buckaroo7 | November 17, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Today's innocent posters need a dose of reality--let's say, a week substituting in a bad school. By Wednesday they will realize that the major cause of bad schools is bad students, kids who have no self-control, creatures of bad parenting and bad genes. It is delusional to imagine that even the best teachers can teach them. Over time the problem can be reduced, if not solved, by making welfare contingent on sterilization.

Posted by: buckaroo7 | November 17, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

It's interesting that so much of the reform movement is focusing on firing teachers at will. That, if only, a principal can hire and fire as she/he chooses all will be well. People who believe that are shortsighted, at best, or pushing a hidden agenda, at worst. Their whole argument is based on giant falsehood: that there are a huge amount of gifted administrators available or that every administrator is gifted. There are a lot of great teachers in our public schools. When a great administrator arrives, the administrator figures out how to take the whole staff to the next level. BUT, when a poor administrator shows up (and this happens a lot!), it is the great teachers who keep the school from sliding to the bottom. Give teachers the credit they deserve. Yes, there are some poor ones, but not nearly as many as reformers want us to believe. Most teachers, given solid leadership, adequate resources, and professional training and support can turn a school around. The question to ask is, Why are those things so sorely lacking in our underachieving schools?

Posted by: Rick61 | November 17, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

For oknow1---You raise a good point that will be the subject of a column of mine to appear Dec. 3. (I am writing several ahead of time because I will be away next week.) It points out that we have much research showing that if we sent those DC kids off to Montgomery or Fairfax county schools, as sometimes happens, their achievement levels would increase significantly. The same thing happens in inner city schools that insist on a culture of hard work and regular attention to studies. Surround those low income kids with higher standards, and they respond positively. All the research shows that.

For natturner---Andy Smarick in his Education Next piece has many examples from the business world comparing turnaround to start up efforts. He says the same principals apply. I would have mentioned this in the blog post but they keep telling me not to make them too long. Also, I remember my five years as the Post's worst ever Wall Street correspondent, and don't want to go back there.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | November 17, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

I don't know why you'd argue to close schools and include the fact that this is next to impossible. Teachers at effective schools should be paid more and students should be allowed to transfer THERE as space permits. Starve the bad schools, don't close them.

Of course, everyone should realize that students' often dictate the success or failure of a school. And just as 'merit pay' for teachers will find itself to the AP teachers who have the good kids, school closing can also simply hit the neediest kids the hardest ...

Schools should not replace typical welfare such as SSI, etc., when serving the disabled and the U.S. should largely end the entitlement of free public education. Some will be hurt by the move, but more are hurt when the schools we have are not effective because they serve so many agendas other than education.

Posted by: socks2 | November 17, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

The notion that students growing up in poverty can't be taught is ridiculous. Just look at the success of KIPP and other programs. The truth is simply that these students can't be taught using the methods that work in the wealthy suburbs.

If we want to get each child an education, we need different types of schools with different teaching styles which cater to their communities.

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | November 17, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Rick61. I've witnessed those dynamics at my daughters' NCLB-defined "failing" schools here in Oakland (PI Year 5 and above). I have found that is more likely to encounter a gifted teacher than a gifted administrator.

I am thankful for the many strong teachers who: 1. stay more than 2 years at the school, 2. step forward to mentor all the newcomers, 3. involve themselves as leaders in one way or another, 4. hold on to much of the institutional memory (like remembering things that were tried, but didn't work, in years before), 5. serve as a steady core for the school, while principals and assistant principals constantly come and go.

I think schools would definitely improve if these types of teachers, who exist at most schools, were permitted to have more power over decisions at their school sites. They are definitely there and need to be brought out into the light and listened to.

Something is very odd about the degree to which teachers as a group are constantly vilified. It seems to come from the critics' emotional centers, rather than from logic or from knowing very much about actual schools.

Posted by: pondoora | November 17, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Jay Mathews said:
"... It points out that we have much research showing that if we sent those DC kids off to Montgomery or Fairfax county schools, as sometimes happens, their achievement levels would increase significantly. The same thing happens in inner city schools that insist on a culture of hard work and regular attention to studies. Surround those low income kids with higher standards, and they respond positively. All the research shows that."

Yes, but doesn't the first effect you mention happen because there is a relatively small number of underachieving students sent to an achieving evironment? This only confirms that it is the environment what matters, not the teachers or the principals, or the school. And the students and parents are the biggest contributors to the enviroment. If you close an underachiving school and send all the students "in masse" to a new empty school with a new principal and new teachers, what do you think will happen? What happens if now you send a large number of underachieving students to the good school? The second part of your comment ("the same thing happens in inner city schools that insist on a culture of hard work and regular attention to studies") just reinforces that, again, the environment is the only thing it matters. How do you think this "culture of hard work and regular attention to studies" get established? The reason why all the efforts to turn around the schools fail is because none are able to effectively change the enviroment. Accountability is useless beyond a minimum. Bigger budgets are useless beyond a minimum. Better teachers are useless beyond a minimum. We need better students and better parents.

Posted by: ogs123 | November 17, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Don't save poor government---terminate them

Glass Steagall was repealed in 1999 and now in the vaults of the major banks there are 2 trillion dollars of worthless pieces of paper.

The government refuses to bring back Glass Steagall and restore a sound banking system.

The business plan of American companies to send American jobs overseas began in 2002 and over 2 millions jobs have been lost in a country with a shortage of 9 million jobs. Every job in America that involves sitting in an office and using a computer and a telephone is a candidate for being sent overseas.

No sound banking system and the prospect of growing large amounts of unemployment.

And the government main concern is inflation.

At what point does the government recognize that the economy can not recover with an unsound banking system and a nation where we now export American jobs.

The only inflation this country has to worry about is super inflation from a bankrupt economy.

Fake regulation will not paper over an unsound banking system and one day job summit at the White House will not address the problem of exporting American jobs.

The reality is that the Dow should be at 6000 and descending based on the flawed fundamentals of the American economy.

Posted by: bsallamack | November 17, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Jay Matthews - thanks for your response, but I was not referring to a subtle 10-20 kid swap. I'm talking about send Anacostia/Coolidge/etc. to BCC, Thomas Jefferson, Rich Montgomery, Southlakes, etc.

BBCrock - welcome back! Who is educating your child... you are. He/she goes to school to learn as well, but the precedent towards education is set by YOU. I think many folks discount that fundamental variable in the equation. Your kid sees that education matters and thus applies himself accordingly. Imagine the impact where that foundation is not established at home nor in the community. That's what is impacting education in America.

My kids have to explain when they get B's; and they know they are in trouble with C's. I'm not a hard nose parent, but in high school and middle school the grade is as reflective of effort than anything else. If they need help we can get them help or provide it ourselves. but issues based on effrt, we thankfully don't have to deal with that issue any longer.

The bottom line in my book is the teacher nor the school system should be held accountable to motivate anyone to get educated.

Posted by: oknow1 | November 17, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Everyone in the schools need more accountability, teachers, students and administrators. I'd like to know from Jay how many administrators in DC actually lost their jobs, not how many were reassigned. In NYC where I worked the upper management just moved them around, some of which I met at their second assignment. When reading about DC schools feel free to substitute NYC in any sentence.

There is a lot of finger pointing re tenure. Each teacher who has tenure was granted that by a principal, its not like it was automatic.

Posted by: jaysue | November 17, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

for oknow1--you are right. If you send the entire student body of Anacostia High to Whitman, it is going to be tough to get them up to speed fast because most of those teachers are not used to helping students like that.

for ogs123---But, as many posters here have pointed out, there ARE schools that HAVE succeeded in changing the environment. Many of us have spent a lot of time inside those schools and verified it beyond any doubt. Now it's your turn. The KIPP schools have an open door policy for visitors. Go look at one and then come back and tell me what you think.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | November 17, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I've traded several message with Mr. Smarick. He is, indeed, an expert in the field of restarts -- and a heckuva nice guy, too. And he absolutely correct that restarts are far more likely to succeed than turnarounds.

No one wants to take on turnarounds. And yet, even Mr. Smarick admits that making restarts work at any significant level requires "extraordinary choreography" in terms of how one finds new folks to replace old folks.

I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that starting something new is easier than fixing something old -- especially when the old is also badly broken.

However, restarts will always be few, and the need for change will always be great, so turnarounds -- and what I like to call "foolarounds", or schools with modest achievement that just hang out until somebody notices they aren't going anywhere -- will always be the order of the day.

In the US, we have 100,000 schools. Probably 25% need full-on restarts; another 25% need significant improvement. That's 50,000 schools. Do the math. It ain't pretty. Even Secretary Duncan's relatively modest effort to fix the nation's 5000 lowest schools in 5 years will be a flatout statistical failure by year two or three.

Unless you work in schools a lot, you don't really understand what turning them around requires. It actually doesn't take nearly as much as we think; nor does it require the ability to hire and fire at will. It's just that the folks who are doing the turning, aren't turning around the right things.

Posted by: StevePeha | November 17, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Even in this charged yet relatively civil exchange the institution of the school district is a non-entity. You'd think all those rotten schools just popped up out of the ground one evening while no one was looking, like toadstools, and they've been plying their ratty, educational wares ever since.

Does it occur to anyone that if you don't consider the school district in such discussions it's like trying to understand fish without giving any consideration to water? The schools under discussion don't exist in a vacuum. They exist in an environment and that environment is the school district. Failure to consider the pressures on and the powers of the school district means that the district's constituent pieces, the schools, are being effected by forces which get no investigation or thought. Doesn't sound like a good recipe for cooking up some understanding.

Posted by: allenm1 | November 17, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Economic integration would help. Ethnically conscious teaching would help. Teachers showing they care about their students would help. The list is endless. I found it quite successful to have peer tutoring and mentoring in a classroom with the teacher. It worked great for 8 years until a new principal didn't like me. Now it's not a reality in that school. There are lots opinions, 1000s of good, new ideas and no single answer. In some instances, closing the school is the best thing to do. In some cases, diversifying the poplulation is the best idea, and in some cases going back to old fashioned education and teaching like when I was young would be the best idea. No one idea is THE answer. Creativity, persistance and a strong belief that all students have value would be a good start.

Posted by: goodjuli20031 | November 17, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Actually, there isn't a whole lot of evidence that the suburban schools dramatically improve low income student performance. I'm willing to believe that individual kids with motivation taken from a low income school to a suburban school will see a performance improvement. But it won't erase the gap and it is attributable in part to motivation and in part to the fact that everyone else is better behaved.

I think all the talk about closing schools down is absurd. You don't have to blame the students to think that the population is a large part of the outcome.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | November 18, 2009 12:56 AM | Report abuse

Jay: I disagree with the idea that closing a "failing" school will solve the problems of the children attending that school. In my experience as a former teacher, the students and families are the biggest influence on the "success" of a school - not the teachers, or the books, or the facilities. Studies seem to bear this out: Children of high SES parents do well in school, even when they are in an overall "poorly performing" school, and children of low SES parents often do poorly in school, even when they are in an overal "high performing" school.

When I taught in San Diego Unified School District earlier this decade, all the schools were basically the same: Same buildings, same student-teacher ratios, same budgets and supplies. But the students in the wealthy areas of the county out-performed the students in the poorer (and higher minority) areas of the county year after year.

I do admit that, in general, the teachers in the wealthier areas of San Diego were more experienced than teachers in the poorer areas, but it's precisely because the students were well-behaved and motivated that the wealthier schools were able to attract these teachers. Most teachers (and most people) don't want to work in dangerous, violent schools with students who do not respect their teachers or education in general. As soon as teachers had enough experience, they often transferred to a school in a better neighborhood. However, I do not think that the more inexperienced (but idealistic) teachers in the low-income, minority neighborhoods were the CAUSE of the children's poor academic performance. While having less experienced teachers probably didn't help these kids' academics, their poor behavior and lack of interest in school made these teachers' jobs harder and often caused them to move on to other schools.

My point is that simply picking up a school of children who come from low-SES households, who often have emotional and behavior problems, along with their academic problems, and placing them in a different building is not going to solve any problems. If you can put a few kids from low income neighborhoods in a high performing school, they will probably benefit from the peer effects and lack of disruptions in this environment. But once more than a certain percentage of a school is drawn from low-income, high-minority neighborhoods, this peer effect begins to dissolve and the school in general becomes more likely to decline.

Posted by: AttorneyDC | November 18, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I don't think a school can transform a community. It can transform individuals, but it will reflect the community. How can a school be successful when the community is below par in education, income, health, employment, and crime?

Posted by: pittypatt | November 18, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

How often do start-ups work? In any industry? Not that often. Same with education. When will people like Mathews realize that chartering is not the systemic answer? Less than 2% of students go to charters. Even fewer go to charters that outperform district schools. It is maddening. Charters are a nice niche market, it isn’t the answer. Aside from variable performance of the sector at large, charters are not financially viable organizations in the long run. Entities that rely upon philanthropic contributions for their survival and can’t operate within their means are doomed for collapse. Turnarounds, with use of district facilities, transportation, and infrastructrue, are sustainable solutions. Do they always work? Nope. But neither do charters. Wake up, Mathews. And start reporting on the vairablity of charter peformance, timidity of charter school accountability efforts, and the financially instability of even the giants like KIPP et al.

Posted by: fomby1 | November 18, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Your blogger apologizes for intruding on this great discussion to confess he erred in this part of his original post:
"KIPP's one attempt to turnaround an existing public school, in Denver, was a failure. KIPP said at the time they could not find a school leader up to the challenge, which is another way of admitting such a job may be beyond mere mortals."

KIPP did not find a leader for that school, and that was certainly a failure on its part. But the two years that KIPP ran the regular school in Denver, that school's test scores went up. And the plan was not for KIPP to continue to try to turnaround that school, but to let those regular kids graduate and put a start-up, with new students recruited expressly for KIPP, in that building. They said they could not find a capable leader for the start-up that they had hoped to be part of the KIPP network, so they gave up that effort and retreated back to another KIPP start-up in Denver that was already underway and doing well.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | November 18, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

This column is wrong on so many levels it's difficult to take it seriously. But I will.

Jay, come on, terminate bad schools? What is a bad school? A school with a lot of poor kids with lead poisoning, poor vision, and fragile families? How about terminating local governments that allow these pernicious social conditions to continue year after year.

Do you seriously believe that schools are bad because of the teachers who work there? Even start-up charter schools that have the power to hire and fire at will are not able to overcome these obstacles.

And what happens to the students when you terminate the school? Where do they go? You and Arne are both at sea on this issue.

As for KIPP, they have a record of closing schools that don't make it. What does that say about their commitment to children? If you don't make high scores on some arbitrary test, we give up on you. What kind of values are those?

Shame on you. Shame on Arne Duncan. And shame on KIPP.

Posted by: Nemessis | November 18, 2009 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Jay, you can't compare charter schools to public schools without realizing that charter schools can deny enrollment to any student who does not measure up to the charter school's standards of behavior and performance. Charter school students and parents, therefore, are motivated to get good grades in order to remain at the school.

Charter schools can also set policies that are not possible in public schools - policies such as requiring parent participation in the school, requiring longer school days (such as at KIPP), requiring longer shool years (KIPP again), etc. Parents and students who do not comply with these regulations are expelled from the school.

Public schools must accept everyone who lives within the school's borders, regardless of attitude, behavior, effort, etc. Public schools must adhere to district policies, and have no power to require parents to participate. Also, school district policies frequently prevent public schools from begin able to deal adequately with students who are disruptive. One disruptive student in a classroom of 35 students is preventing 34 other people from getting a good education.

Here's an example: An English teacher at a school in my district increased the rigor and work ethic in her classroom. Many parents complained to the Principal because they said "My child shouldn't have to work that hard". Compare THAT with KIPP parents. See the difference?

Posted by: ronik145 | November 21, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

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