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NYC success suggests better fix for urban high schools

A wise commenter on this blog who signs in as edlharris suggested recently that the best test of the charter school networks that are getting so much praise would be to take over a regular, inner city, low-performing school. "They would have to keep the current population, take any student who moves within its boundaries and not be able to expel a student unless they engaged in physical assault," he said.

I get his point. Charters take only those students that apply, and often start with just one grade, adding a grade each year so that they can convey their procedures and traditions -- such as required homework and quick response to classroom misbehavior -- to just one small group at a time. They don't have to turn around an entire student body already accustomed to lower standards. It is harder to raise student achievement that way than to create a new school, grade by grade.

But a just-released study of small public schools in New York City suggests to me that making talented educators take over existing schools is buying trouble for no sensible reason. Why not do what New York did? Start many new public high schools the way the charters start their schools -- just a ninth grade at the beginning. Require all incoming ninth-graders to pick one of those schools. Do whatever is possible for the existing high schools with 10th- through 12th-graders, but let them fade as their students graduate, or drop out. Focus on the new schools, which have a much better chance of creating a new culture because they are adding higher standards one grade at a time. The old schools, once they are gone, will leave behind buildings the new schools can use.

The New York City study, by MDRC, one of the most respected research firms in education, looked at 123 "small schools of choice" created this way in the past eight years. Their students had better graduation rates and lower failure rates than similar students who did not attend those schools.

The small schools of choice, or SSCs, took students of all kinds (about two-thirds of them below grade level) and had about 100 in each grade. The report by Howard S. Bloom, Saskia Levy Thompson and Rebecca Unterman, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said the schools enrolled a total of about 45,000 students. More than 80 percent were from low-income families. More than 90 percent were black or Hispanic.

Instructional teams competed for permission to open the schools in space supplied by the school district. "Structures such as reduced teacher load and common planning time (in which teachers meet together to discuss their students' progress and problems) were recommended to ensure that all students were known well and to promote strong, sustained relationships between students and teachers," the report said.

"By the end of their first year of high school, 58.5 percent of SSC enrollees are on track to graduate in four years compared with 48.5 percent of their non-SSC counterparts, for a difference of 10.0 percentage points," the study said. "These positive effects are sustained over the next two years. By the fourth year of high school, SSCs increase overall graduation rates by 6.8 percentage points, which is roughly one-third the size of the gaps in graduation rates between white students and students of color in New York City."

The report notes that the positive effects were seen in "a broad range of students, including male high school students of color, whose educational prospects have been historically difficult to improve."

This strikes me as important information for urban school districts across the country, particularly the one where my newspaper is. New York managed to find enough empty spaces to start those schools, sometimes by sharing space with other schools. Some urban districts may be so loaded with the children of immigrant families that they have no room for a whole new group of seedling high schools with just 100 ninth-graders, but the District has plenty of room. Many classrooms in its large traditional high schools are empty. I have seen enough space to fit 30 or 40 groups of 100 students each. As the large traditional high schools shrink each year, there would be enough space for the new schools to grow.

Two traditional D.C. high schools, Coolidge and Dunbar, are being managed by the Friends of Bedford group, a team of New York educators who had success creating one of the SSCs in Brooklyn. It would be poetic justice for the D.C. schools to steal some of the best principals from the charter schools that have pioneered the technique of growing a school culture a grade at a time.

Urban high schools across the country are, on average, very bad. They are full of confused teenagers who are often not well taught and given little of the support and structure they need to learn. Several D.C. high schools are under new leadership now, as Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has installed new principals. But they are trying, as edlharris recommended, to turn around their entire schools, grades 9 to 12, at the same time. The results so far are not impressive.

So why not adopt the New York model? All of the D.C. high schools together have an enrollment of less a third of the 45,000 students in New York's small schools of choice. One of them, Eastern, has begun a New York-style revival, starting with ninth grade.

Edlharris is right. Turning whole schools around is a tough test. But if it is unnecessary, why do it that way?


Read Jay's Class Struggle blog every day, and follow all the Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education Web page.

By Jay Mathews  | June 25, 2010; 5:30 AM ET
Categories:  Trends  | Tags:  Friends of Bedford, MDRC, New York high school study shows small schools work, creating new schools better than reforming entire schools, fixing high schools  
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Comments

Jay, if you haven't already, please read Diane Ravitch's "The Death and Life of the Great American School System." I learned A LOT from it. The charter school movement has been hijacked. The concept and reality are quite different. A major problem in public education--especially urban systems--is that students are not held accountable and teachers have been taken out of the decision making. Nevermind the issues of poverty, lack of parental involvement, poor home environment, etc., all of which affect student achievement.

I'd also be suspect of any study funded by the Gates, Walton or Broad Foundations. They have plenty of money to make any study come out in their favor.

My question has always been, Why are most urban schools poor performers? The answer isn't that they are a magnet for poor teachers. There are far too many factors which negatively affect student achievement which are disproportionally present in urban populations. The current assault on teachers and unions is unwarranted. Please give the book I recommended a read and let us know what you think! It's an eye-opener and will prompt much discussion on here, no doubt!

Posted by: UrbanDweller | June 25, 2010 7:13 AM | Report abuse

"Do whatever is possible for the existing high schools with 10th- through 12th-graders, but let them fade as their students graduate, or drop out."

Is this latest spin? It sounds like a nice way of saying – “write off these kids - they're hopeless.” What happened to the commitment to educating all our children.

"Focus on the new schools, which have a much better chance of creating a new culture because they are adding higher standards one grade at a time."

"Ceating a new culture" is definitely the latest spin, popping up everywhere. I see it as an acknowledgement of the failed concept that great teachers alone can get scores up. However, I doubt reformers could ever admit they were wrong or that a solution they devised is anything but brilliant and innovative.

Posted by: efavorite | June 25, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I think smaller schools might be a good thing in an urban area where students are already performing significantly below grade level. Sometimes the students in such areas just need to belong to a caring group of peers. Sadly they often end up in gangs for that reason. For other areas, smaller schools may not be such a great idea in that course selections and other school activities tend to be more limited. Unfortunately it seems that RTTT is looking at one size fits all solutions since it is requiring certain "reforms" --"changes" would be a better word--in order to get the money.

Diane Ravitch wrote about the small schools (as envisioned by the Gates Foundation) in her book. She spoke of several large urban high schools who were forced to break into a number of smaller signature schools within the same building. There were a number of problems including a lack of resources which previously had been shared by the staff at the larger school. Student achievement did not improve and the model was abandoned after several years.

There is an interesting paragraph in the Ravitch book which addresses some studies done on the New York small schools. I found one section to be be of particular interest: "A study by the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School found that the impressive graduation rates and attendance rates at the new small high schools dropped over time, and the schools experienced very high rates of teacher and principal turnover; furthermore, their graduates were more likely than their peers in large schools to receive 'local diplomas' (signifying that they were not college-ready) instead of Regents deplomas. To obtain a Regents deploma, a student had to pass five exit examinations; a student could get a local deploma without passing the exit examinationss."

Interestly, according to Ravitch, the Gates Foundation changed course in 2008 from investing in small schools to investing in performance-based teacher pay programs.

Personally, I'm glad that the small schools have been successful in New York. My fear, however, is that this vision of success will be foisted on everyone now whether or not it is needed.

For every failing school needing these extreme interventions, there are scores of successful schools that never seem to appear in the news. Very frustrating.


Posted by: musiclady | June 25, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

efav. is right. Since the "reformers" have failed on their own criteria; high stakes testing, and that concept has fallen into disrepute, they need a new way to justify their existance. At Dunbar the Friends of Bedford cartel decided that Dr. Marie Fonrose, a PhD, and one of only 39 National Board Certified Teachers in DC did not fit their "new culture." Presumably the new culture does not value quality, prefering loyalty to their "reform" cult.

And while we're linking to recent studies, try this one: http://www.greatlakescenter.org/docs/Policy_Briefs/Heilig_TeachForAmerica.pdf
The bottom line; if your school district is stuck with a bunch of uncertified, unqualified teachers, TFA is a slightly better, but very expensive, substitute, but compared to real, certified teachers, they are harmful to kids education.

Posted by: mcstowy | June 25, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Agree with urbandweller and efavorite.

Additionally, a combination of the New York method and edlharris' turn-around suggestion might be worth considering. On both counts, I speak from experience as a student and a teacher. I went to two radically different high schools as a teenager: one was a very small, DOD school in Germany that had only 200 students. the second was a large, 'crossroads' (students came from many different communities) of 1800. I loved the first, just kind of got along at the second, rather unhappy. The difference was the kind of community we were able to form at the smaller school, and had the comfort of feeling secure and knowing our fellow students, as well as being known and cared for by the staff; The staff ranged from outstanding to so-so, but the imperfections didn't bother me because part of becoming an adult is learning to get along with different kinds of people - and most people have worthwhile lessons to teach - the student has to have the willingness to listen.

On the turn-around aspect,it's important to keep the integrity of at least some of the culture that represents each particular school. No two schools are alike, regardless of the model undertaken; the variables of each environment and each student life are immense. Teenagers are so vulnerable - it's rarely the 'happy days' that many like to recall from their formative years. So, folks that work in these different urban schools need some apprecition of each schools' culture and
m o n u m e n t a l support!

re efavorite's take on letting 10th-12th grades 'fade', he's right. Many of those 10th - 12th graders are the older siblings and friends of those coming along. Very careful steps and sensitivity to those students is required to give them what may be their last shot at a decent future.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | June 25, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

As musiclady (through Ravitch) points out, smalls schools is another silver bullet, like NCLB testing and TFA, that doesn't stand up to scrutiny, but does divert resources from real efforts to improve education.

As the the study cited, any "study" funded by Gates should be suspect. For a more balanced approach, I recdommend the study by the New School from last June: http://www.newschool.edu/milano/nycaffairs/documents/TheNewMarketplace_Report.pdf

Posted by: mcstowy | June 25, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

hahahahaha.

"It is harder to raise student achievement that way than to create a new school, grade by grade.

But a just-released study of small public schools in New York City suggests to me that making talented educators take over existing schools is buying trouble for no sensible reason. "

Hahaha. So Jay will just keep on touting charter schools over public schools even after he acknowledges that it's not a fair comparison.

"Focus on the new schools, which have a much better chance of creating a new culture because they are adding higher standards one grade at a time. The old schools, once they are gone, will leave behind buildings the new schools can use. "

Good lord, Jay, do you understand the attrition that is commonly described in all those reports you hyperventilate about? Where are those kids going to go, after you've cherrypicked them out of your dream schools?

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | June 25, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large wrote: "The difference was the kind of community we were able to form at the smaller school, and had the comfort of feeling secure and knowing our fellow students, as well as being known and cared for by the staff"

This can happen at larger schools as well. Kids often attach to groups based on interests. Many of these groups are lost in smaller schools because there simply aren't the resources. My kids were both "band kids." They stayed with their group of band kids throughout middle and high school. If they weren't in class, they were engaged in some music activity. In a small school, these opportunities may not have been available to them. I think that small schools should be an option for some, but should not replace larger schools.

Posted by: musiclady | June 25, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

If I recall, Boston started pilot schools when NYC started Small Schools, and both originally denied that “creaming took place.” When the facts came out, Boston apologized for misrepresenting the selectivity they employed to get the experiment off to a good start. NYC denied the charges.

Later, NYC said that the plan had always been too ease into the experiment by excluding many of the more difficult populations in the transition. That’s understandable, but they should have apologized for their initial falsehoods.

Also on theme of truth in advertizing, today’s NYT on Locke High School discussed the succeful breaking of the school into academies, as well as its costs. If reforms are worth doing, they are worth doing right and that costs money that is far beyond anything being discussed.

Posted by: johnt4853 | June 25, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I agree with you Jay that it is easier to start off fresh with the "new" kids or the ninth graders who have not already gotten used to an out of control situation or low expectations.

I thought the whole idea of the current reformers was that every child could learn if they had an effective teacher in the classroom and no excuses for anything else that has or is happening to the student.

It seems to me you are suggesting good leadership would work, if the new leaders got to start off with a fresh bunch of kids. I agree that this might work, but you cannot have it both ways. If charter or private schools are only successful with select students, then you can't blame public schools when they don't have that luxury.

I am not against trying this idea. It sounds like common sense to me. However, I am disheartened by the documentary I read about on Bill Turque's page. The documentary bashes teachers and makes Rhee out to be a saint. Fine. But you can't say "No excuses" on the one hand and then hold up as shining examples schools that have actually given up on 10-12 graders. What happened to "No excuses"?

PS
I am not one of the Rhee haters, but there is clearly a message coming out from her that is anti-teacher and it is really disturbing. I wish her luck but hope she knows she is offensive to many effective teachers. I do not consider those ineffective people on the documentary to even BE teachers.


Posted by: celestun100 | June 25, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

There were 65 kids in the graduating class at my public high school. I've never been able to fathom how high schools with more than about 1000 students could function well. Much less the 2000+ student schools one often sees out here in CA.

Posted by: CrimsonWife | June 25, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

to musiclady:

You are correct about kids being able to attach themselves to a group of like-interests students. I did become a chorus-kid and theater-kid, both in the small and the large school (I was fortunate that my particular small school had most options that larger schools have.)

But in the larger school,there were many more kids on the fringes, who did not find a place, and while I had several teachers who took a personal interest in me, the larger of scene of stampedes in the hall, many unknown faces and some very harrassed, overwhelmed teachers made the experience far less than optimal. Unless the large school is in an area where most students have had the luxury of staying in one place most of their lives and know all of the players, there will continue to be many disenfranchised students who are underserved despite all of the bells and whistles of sparkling labs and olympic sized gyms.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | June 25, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Just as some people thrive in the country and others in the city, I suppose it's the same for high school kids in different types of school settings.

Celestun100 - I agree with you about Rhee's negative attitude about teachers, but remember, she doesn't care about how she comes across to teachers or how happy teachers are in their work; she only cares about the kids - specifically their test scores. Jay Mathews supports this attitude.

I notice that this research on the NYC small schools does not focus on teachers being responsible for test scores or being punitive towards teachers. The focus instead is on collaboration - another feature of education that Rhee thinks is overrated.

Posted by: efavorite | June 25, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Interesting, I guess the question is though, when exactly do you "give up" on a child.

I truly appreciated Ms. Rhee's "Saturday Scholars" effort last academic year, when she directed principals to include only children on the cusp of proficiency.

That's right, Rhee didn't want the children that are "below basic" on the DC-CAS. Afterall, it's hard to catch these children up.

I'll never forget the horror on the face of our school's principal, when this leader realized what Rhee was calling for...

So Jay, is it ok to give up on 8 year olds who are below basic on the DC-CAS? Or is it just 10th grade children?

When exactly do we give up on children. And where do they go?

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | June 25, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Great thoughts here. I am glad no one is complaining about the 3,000 character limit.

For UrbanDweller--I liked Diane's book, but had a somewhat different take, and I think the MDRC data, stronger than previous efforts to gauge the NYC small schools, might influence her. Here is my review of her book:
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/class-struggle/2010/03/post_2.html

for efavorite and mcstowy and celestun100--I hope you don't think I am a fadist. I have been saying pretty much the same stuff about schools since 1982, since the teachers who have influenced me seem in strong agreement on what works. And they have ALWAYS said that school culture is important.

for efavorite--Rhee has certainly said she thinks collaboration with parents and the community is overrated, but the way you have written your comment sounds like you are saying she thinks collaboration among teachers is overrated, and my impression is that that is not the case. She is a big supporter of creating team-like cultures in schools.

For PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large---exactly right. you have to do what you can for the 10th to 12th graders. I have spent a lot of time with them, and they know they need a lot, but there are many distractions, and the educators that surround them don't demand much, because they don't think they will get it.

For Cal---these aren't charter schools, they are regular NYC public schools, and kids can't be cherrypicked out of them any more readily than they could be excluded from the regular schools that existed before they started the SSCs.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | June 25, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

For Title1 SoccerMom---I am with you. I don't think it is right to give up on any child. I recall how outraged Jaime Escalante was when another teacher was flunking out some calculus students, which would likely cause them to drop the course and not even take the AP exam. That makes no sense. And once we have switched to a value-added method of calculating achievement gains, there will not longer be an incentive for helping just the kids on the edge of proficiency.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | June 25, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

My niece started in the first year of one of these small high schools in Harlem, and she moved up with her grade each year. Her class, which had almost no attrition, except for some families who moved, and had some new students move in each year, had a 100% graduation rate. Yes, there was some nail biting about whether everyone would pass the regents and walk at graduation (but really, that happens even in independent schools). While her school has a performing arts theme, they take anyone who wants to come and many of the students who started in her year didn't even know about the theme or have an interest in performing arts. It has been a transformational experience for the students, most of whom are from very low income families, and the faculty. Finally, everyone has been admitted to a two or four year college. Sounds successful to me.

Posted by: emilymb1 | June 25, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for responding to everyone, Jay!

School culture is important. You are right.

@Title1SoccerMom
The wanting to get the kids who are close to proficiency up is not just DCPS. MoCo does that too. They look at a target group of kids near proficiency and work to get them to where they need to be. That is due to NCLB. No school wants to get the label of low performing.

I agree it is an ethically questionable practice. However, I would argue that it has helped certain "average" kids to get going, as well as kids in certain groups who are getting a little extra attention, so that the schools stay on the "good" lists.

That is what we get for basing everything on test scores.

Posted by: celestun100 | June 25, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Jay - I think you are a fadist - and not just you. Referring to "school culture" seems to be "in" these days as it becomes evident that scores aren't skyrocketing as predicted.

As to Rhee being for collaborative teacher teams, please point me to articles or Rhee quotes about that if you can. I don't recall any, certainly none by you.

Posted by: efavorite | June 25, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Urban high schools across the country are, on average, very bad. They are full of confused teenagers who are often not well taught and given little of the support and structure they need to learn.
...........................
I thought the problem was through out the nation since all of the educational policies are geared to the supposedly under performance of public schools.

Is there now recognition that there are actually very good public schools in this nation and that perhaps we do not need political leaders and columnist continuously pretending that the public school education is totally defective because of incompetent and uncaring teachers and the unions of teachers?

Will we perhaps perhaps hear from the columnists and the politicians that policies such as "test them until they drop" and "teach to the test" are actually detrimental to the good public schools not in poor urban areas?

Will we shortly hear from the columnists and the political leaders that the problems in education are limited to specific problems such as poverty and that there is no achievement gap amount in affluent and upper middle class public schools?

But this might mean the politicians and columnist would have to actually start to focus on dealing with the specific problems.

Posted by: bsallamack | June 25, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Jay I don't think you're a fadist. A lot of people liked AP before it got to be a fad and I think you are one of them.

I would also like to see proof of Rhee encouraging positive school culture and teacher collaboration.

Posted by: celestun100 | June 25, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Bsallamack, you ask "Will we shortly hear from the columnists and the political leaders that the problems in education are limited to specific problems such as poverty...."

Maybe after the unions are busted and many vereran teachers are gone.

Posted by: efavorite | June 25, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

efavorite and celestun100-- Come to think of it, i cannot recall a quote from her on that subject. I will ask my man Turque, and maybe ask her. The topic never comes up because it is not controversial. Who would be against teacher collaboration? I am quite sure she is strongly for it because she is a big fan of KIPP and schools like KIPP, and teacher collaboration is one of the prime aspects of their (Oh Lord, should I utter the word?) culture.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | June 25, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

from Bill Turque:

You know, nothing on teacher collaboration comes to mind. She spends a lot of time herself meeting and listening to teachers, but that's different. I've never heard her address it directly. As you say, it doesn't mean that she isn't for it....

Posted by: Jay Mathews | June 25, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Jay – I’ll do a little googling on the subject of Rhee and teacher collaboration. Meanwhile, what I recall is that she pits teachers against each other – the tired vs. the energetic, the red tier vs. green tier, the effective vs. the ineffective. Just today, in Turque’s article about the new documentary featuring Rhee, he quotes her as saying, “The people who are the most frustrated by ineffective teaching are the effective teachers," she said. "They are the ones literally driven crazy every day with the idea that because their colleague next door did not do the job they were supposed to do, they have to catch kids up."

Even when she talks about her miraculous Baltimore experience raising scores from the bottom to the top, she barely and rarely mentions that she performed this amazing feat with a co-teacher and she gives no clue as to how worked together to accomplish it.

Posted by: efavorite | June 25, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Value-added evaluations will not keep teachers from giving up on low-scoring children. It only fosters new strategies for gaming the system.

As for whether Michelle Rhee supports collaboration, look at her policies: IMPACT actually impedes collaboration by pitting Group 1 teachers against non-Group 1 teachers.

Threatening some teachers with the prospect of losing their jobs if test scores don't show growth does not promote happy, collaborative teachers. It does create a hostile, toxic environment in our schools. Not exactly collaborative learning communities, eh?

Posted by: Nemessis | June 26, 2010 8:20 AM | Report abuse

My perusal of 18 Google pages of yielded no cases of Rhee calling for teacher collaboration. There were some instances of people saying that she should endorse teacher collaboration (sometimes in the context of her pay-for-performance idea, which does not lend itself to collaboration and in fact puts teachers in competition with each other). There were some references to her famous remark about collaboration being overrated. In most of the references, however, there appeared to be no connection between the words “Rhee teacher collaboration” and Rhee espousing collaboration among teachers. I followed a few promising leads that ultimately disappointed. If anyone reading here finds such references dating to up to 6/25/10, please let me know by copying them here or in a future Mathews blog.

A DCPS site search of “collaborate,” “collaboration” and “teacher collaboration” suggests only one developing program (catalyst schools) that includes the concept, but it appears from the Google search that teacher collaboration is not mentioned in conjunction with that program, except in a few cases in which the entry quotes the DCPS description of the program, but not Rhee herself.

So if Rhee starts featuring teacher-collaboration programs and giving interviews about the importance of teacher collaboration in, for instance, improving school culture and raising scores, I’ll link her new emphasis with our discussion of teacher collaboration here, noting the absence of such concern prior to this discussion.

Posted by: efavorite | June 26, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Nemessis, I'm inclined to believe that you are correct, that value-added measures will do nothing for children.

Jay, here's a question for you. Erin McGoldrick, one of Rhee's data whizes promised me that there would be a value-added measure way back 2008. In fact, I was told it would roll out in September of 2009.

Fall of '10 will be here in no time. Where is this tool? In the meantime, teachers will be fired and children will be left behind.

As a parent and a tax payer, do I get to evaluate Ms. McGoldrick and Ms. Rhee on their performance? In the language of IMPACT, they are not earning a "4" in my book.

As for "culture" Rhee has produced one of terror and fear and whipped up a level of drama that I find distasteful, especially on the elementary school level.

Having recently sat on a principal search panel, I can tell you that the candidates that Rhee is attracting are woefully unqualified. So do I get to grade Rhee on the "culture" she's brought to the system? Again, in the language of IMPACT, I'm not inclined to offer more than a "1."

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | June 26, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Nemessis, I'm inclined to believe that you are correct, that value-added measures will do nothing for children.

Jay, here's a question for you. Erin McGoldrick, one of Rhee's data whizes promised me that there would be a value-added measure way back 2008. In fact, I was told it would roll out in September of 2009.

Fall of '10 will be here in no time. Where is this tool? In the meantime, teachers will be fired and children will be left behind.

As a parent and a tax payer, do I get to evaluate Ms. McGoldrick and Ms. Rhee on their performance? In the language of IMPACT, they are not earning a "4" in my book.

As for "culture" Rhee has produced one of terror and fear and whipped up a level of drama that I find distasteful, especially on the elementary school level.

Having recently sat on a principal search panel, I can tell you that the candidates that Rhee is attracting are woefully unqualified. So do I get to grade Rhee on the "culture" she's brought to the system? Again, in the language of IMPACT, I'm not inclined to offer more than a "1."

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | June 26, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Oops, my first sentence should read:

"My perusal of 18 Google pages of - Rhee teacher collaboration - yielded no cases of Rhee calling for teacher collaboration."

In the original, I surrounded the words Rhee Teacher collaboration with which seems to have had the effect of making them disappear!

Posted by: efavorite | June 26, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

fascinating - certain symbols and anything written within them just don't show up here! In my last post, there should be symbols between the words "with" and "which."

On a more important subject -Soccermom - Hello -- Sorry to hear about the weak principal candidates, but in a sick way, this could ultimately be good news. It suggests that despite all the positive national press, word is getting around in professional circles that serious, qualified principals would be crazy to come here.

Nemessis - I agree with all you say.

Posted by: efavorite | June 26, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I would guess that the positive national press would appeal to people who haven't taught and haven't been principals.

It might also appeal to parents, I don't know. But depending on what school you end up in it looks like the principals might have a year-long contract. Then they will say, "Well you've had a whole year to turn things around."

Posted by: celestun100 | June 26, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Jay, attrition doesn't necessarily mean expulsion. It means the kids leave and go to a school that doesn't require the "culture" changes. Or they continue to resist--something that, *in a charter school*, would result in expulsion.

You are anticipating universal improvement once you "indoctrinate". But all the charter school data shows that some kids won't buy into the brave new world. Right now, they have choices. Take away those choices, and they'll be stuck in those small public schools you tout. And what will they be doing? Screwing up those fabulous stats that you're so happy with.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | June 27, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Nationwide, and certainly in DCPS, home to the blogger's favorite Middle Atlantic States public schools chancellor, "small learning communities" has been educational newspeak for most any arrangement which relabels students. Not only are a large fraction of entire freshman classes being labeled "freshman academies", but so, too, are some sophomore classes. If it is a challenge to segregate the sophomores, it is certainly not, in the large buildings the blogger mentions, no matter how crowded, to do so with freshman. Chancellor Rhee has allowed daytime-consigned if-not-incarcerated freshman classes to balloon in a year from 350 to 525 students at one of her HS's following no evidence whatever that serious success had followed earlier treatment of freshman in this fashion. Is socialization by veteran / older students a challenge? Yes, but it is too, too easy to treat student populations as prisoners, with treatment consisting of distinctions no greater than jail for freshman, vs prison for more hardened students, you know, the older ones.

Hope the hyperbole instructs. It was just for effect.

Posted by: incredulous | June 27, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Small schools are not just showing positive results in NYC. In Philadelphia, several small schools are showing clear advantages. Here's a link to the article:

http://www.philly.com/dailynews/local/20100625_After_4_years__Philly_s_small_high_schools_earn_passing_grades.html

It's interesting to note that the one small school that did not fare as well was the HS of the Future (used to be supported by MicroSoft). This school was also the only one that did not have selective admissions. This very beautiful school serves the local West Philly community first and then is open to a city-wide lottery.

As a Philly teacher, I am extremely supportive of small schools. These institutions allow for more motivated students to develop college-ready skills and investigate careers in a safe and supportive environment. In Philadelphia, that's no small feat. Philly, NYC and D.C. all could use good public school options for parents.

I agree that this is not a solution to challenging, large public high schools where a majority of students must attend. It does, however, provide options for parents and students.

Posted by: Nikki1231 | June 27, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I agree, Nikki, and I don't oppose those options. However, those options only exist because there are large public high schools for the parents who don't care, the kids who don't care, and so on.

If we take Jay's advice and turn all our schools into small public schools, what happens? Never mind that we wouldn't have enough teachers. Where are all the kids who don't want to be there, who now leave and go to a large high school?

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | June 27, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

My question to Michelle Rhee:

Are you a big fan of teacher collaboration? i said on my blog you were. Readers replied, prove it! I said i couldn't recall you talking about it, but that must be because nobody ever asks you, the topic being so non controversial. But i promised them I would ask you.

Her answer: Absolutely!

Posted by: Jay Mathews | June 27, 2010 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for asking, Jay. Of course, Rhee’s one-word response that she’s a fan of teacher collaboration is not proof that she supports it in her administration. Besides, teacher collaboration being a non-controversial topic (according to you), is not necessarily related to how much she talks about it or how much she’s asked about it.

She’s made repeated statements about a lot of things that people don't ask about. For instance, she has talked a lot about her incredible success as a young teacher, her belief that a great teacher is all that is needed to raise student achievement, despite negative outside influences and her resolve that DCPS will go from being the worst system to the best system because of her reforms.

She also is known to contradict herself, as was pointed out in numerous examples in a Valerie Strauss article last January.
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/dc-schools/rhee-in-her-own-words.html

So I’m afraid that an “Absolutely!” from Rhee on any subject is not very convincing.

Posted by: efavorite | June 27, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

On collaboration:
Find the budgeting, both time and money. Look at the evaluation criteria for teachers and other instructional personnel, including IMPACT.
I have much more confidence in efavorite's research methods over the blogger's.
Teacher collaboration is such a large part of highly regarded schools here and educational systems elsewhere in the world, the blogger's method remind me of a DC principal's revision of her school description to meet demand: Nothing changed, but the descriptors.
Like "small learning communities" in DCPS high schools.
Jay Mathews wrote up a poobah's recent discovery of comprehensive school audits a few months ago, the British OFSTED system. Under that system, no school is allowed to claim what it doesn't do.

Posted by: incredulous | June 27, 2010 11:59 PM | Report abuse

In addition to the list Strauss published, here are two comments from Rhee in which she makes contradictory statements about her own collaborative style.

Back in July of ’07, during her confirmation hearings, she said, "I can speak to my own personal style, which is very collaborative," [in reference to the non-collaborative process in which she was nominated for DCPS Chancellor]
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2007/jul/3/rhee-vows-to-brighten-schools/print/

But just this May, she told the NYT magazine that, “I’m not big on the collaborative, warm and fuzzy approach,” [5/23/10 in reference to union negotiations]
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/23/magazine/23Race-t.html?pagewanted=all

Her famous September ‘08 comment made during an Aspen Institute meeting supports her non-collaborative preference: “…cooperation, collaboration and consensus-building are way overrated.” [9/15/08 in reference to being accountable only to the mayor] http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dc/2008/09/rhee_who_needs_consensus.html and
http://aspenedsummit.blogspot.com/2008/09/panel-discussion-five-investing-in.html

And remember, she also thinks her anti-social tendencies have served her well. As she related to Newsweek in August of ‘08: “[My mother] said, 'You know, when you were young, you never used to care what people thought about you, and I always thought that you were going to be antisocial, but now I see this serving you well. 'I was, like, 'Yeah. '”
http://www.newsweek.com/2008/08/22/an-unlikely-gambler.html

Of course this contradiction, the overall sense from these comments that she doesn’t value cooperation in her own dealings with people and the paucity of comments on teacher cooperation, may not mean that she does not support cooperation among teachers. Absolutely!

Posted by: efavorite | June 28, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Jay, a more meaningful question for Michelle Rhee would have been, "How do you define collaboration in education?"

For the past several years, teachers have been required to attend what is called "collaborative" which is actually a mandatory 30-minute meeting several mornings per week. There's never been anything collaborative about most of the "collaboratives" I've attended. These meetings have mostly consisted of administrators or coaches explaining the various mandates handed down by the Central Office.

If this is Rhee's definition of collaboration, I can understand why she would support it "absolutely".

Posted by: Nemessis | June 29, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

"a wise commentator"

Thanks for the compliment, Jay.
(on vacation)

BTW, if it wasn't for collaboration with a veteran teacher back at Harlem Park, Miss Rhee would never have taken her students from the 13th percentile to 90% at the 90th percentile in her Baltimore Miracle.

Posted by: edlharris | June 30, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

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