Public Schools

Public Schools

Chicago's Budget Woes Leave Many Public Schools Hogtied


CPS began its year having a $1.1 billion operating deficit. The CPS Board has taken several actions to manage the situation although it waits for that State of Illinois to agree with a budget and address the problems of the severally underfunded pension system. Until now it's been unclear the way the increased borrowing announced by CPS and also the $200 million in expense cuts which will range from the removal of 1,400 employees from the work force of 41,500 would affect individual schools and their students.

Now, we are starting to discover.

According to Catalyst Chicago, CPS has started to supply guidance to the leaders from the 522 traditional schools in their system: \”Principals got official word-that they'll receive budgets for just July and August. The district's finance head says CPS is not yet in a position to calculate the amount of money schools will receive for every student, so schools can't make use of the stopgap budgets to predict what they'll ultimately receive.\”

Catalyst Chicago's reporting highlighted the impact of this uncertainty on schools directly operated by CPS. Laura LeMone, the main at Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Senior high school, said, \”I'm glad they're doing this instead of there being nothing, however it still means you can't prioritize or plan.\” Principal Peter Auffant at Brighton Park's Shields Junior high school says he's slowed summer work such as curriculum development because of budget uncertainties, and is holding off on buying needed agenda books for every student. At Sullivan Senior high school in Rogers Park, Principal Chad Adams says he won't fill two or three openings even with good candidates until he is able to promise a situation, saying, \”I don't want to hire and fire.\”

A report within the Chicago Tribune provided some insight around the impact from the CPS budget problem on the area's 142 charter schools:

\”Chicago Public Schools has told its independently operated schools to expect a fraction of their normal payout in the district for that first quarter of the budget year. The city's charter, contract and alternative schools will receive as little as 15 percent of funds normally written by CPS at the end of this month-[and]-they will get a partial first quarter payment this month to assist ensure schools open on time-the full quantity of their first quarter payment, as well as reimbursement for special education services rendered in the closing months of the recently completed fiscal year in a later date\”

According to Catalyst Chicago, \”The leader from the advocacy group Illinois Network of Charter Schools, Andrew Broy, says the deferred payment is forcing schools with early start dates to reconsider them and may potentially lead charter schools to shorten their academic years.\”

The Tribune spoke to Ron Manderscheid, president from the Northwestern University Settlement Association, which operates the Rowe Elementary charter school. Ron said the association would need to take a loan to cover its expenses. \”As a small school, it's an issue. But I think this is an problem for large schools too. My $300,000 issue is a sizable school's $3 million problem. So it’s all in scale, right?\”

\”We know everyone in the mayor's office and CPS will work onto it,\” said Manderschied. \”But the schools and families and teachers are type of caught in the center of this. We're still attempting to understand it all. And I still think they're, frankly, trying to figure it out.\”

Until Illinois's fractured political leadership can agree with a state budget and what if any actions will happen to fix the seriously underfinanced pensions plans, CPS won't be able to finalize its 2021 -16 budget or think about plans for that years beyond. And individual schools will be left scrambling to finalize their staff and learning plans for the coming year. Chicago's students get no take advantage of the situation, and that is the sad main point here towards the story.

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Public Schools

The Good and the Bad Results of the Redesign of NOLA's School System


It's been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and left much of New Orleans underwater, its population displaced and it is institutions devastated. The need to rebuild a college system in the ground up allowed \”school reformers\” to place their marketplace, performance-based theories into practice on the scale and also at a pace unmatched in almost any other American city. 10 years in, observers are beginning to be able to measure how this experiment has played out and also to find out if it is a model other locales should emulate.

Douglas Harris, professor of economics at Tulane University and founder and director from the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, described the scope of the changes that were implemented in Education Next:

\”Within the span of twelve months, all public-school employees were fired, the teacher contract expired and wasn't replaced, and most attendance zones were eliminated. Their state took control of just about all public schools and started holding them to relatively strict standards of academic achievement. Over time, the state turned all of the schools under its authority to charter management organizations (CMOs) that, consequently, dramatically reshaped the teacher workforce. [-] New Orleans essentially erased its traditional school district and started over. Along the way, the city provides the very first direct test of the alternative to the machine that has dominated American public education for more than a century.\”

Harris and the colleagues at Tulane have just released findings from research they had been conducting on New Orleans's schools. Around the basic level of educational achievement, there seems to be some good news: New Orleans youngsters are learning better than their peers in other parts of the state and better than they were before Katrina stuck.

\”For New Orleans, the news on average student outcomes is very positive just by about any measure. The reforms seem to have moved the average student up by 0.2 to 0.4 standard deviations and boosted rates of high school graduation and college entry. We are not aware of any other districts that have made such large improvements in such a short time.

\”The effects are also large compared with other different techniques for school improvement, for example class-size reduction and intensive preschool. This seems true despite we take into account the larger costs. While it may appear difficult to compare such different strategies, the center from the larger school-reform debate is between systemic reforms like the portfolio model and resource-oriented strategies.\”

But this level of student improvement has not been free. Not just has got the financial commitment in rebuilding New Orleans's schools been exceptionally large in terms of both public and private investment, we are seeing an expense in creating a corporate management system for any public school system.

Blogger Jennifer C. Berkshire, referred to as EduShyster, took a glance at this side of the NOLA education story in a recent Salon article. Andre Perry, former CEO of the Capital One/UNO charter network, informed her, \”The test scores are up, but let's be honest by what we'd to complete to get there. Don't lie to people and say 'it's all good.'\”

One of Perry's concerns is the fact that in a city that's 65 percent black, the leadership from the reform effort and many from the schools within it are almost entirely white. In Perry's view, \”We can't have a white-led reform movement in New Orleans where all the decisions are created by three or four power brokers.\”

Christy Rosales-Fajardo, an organizer for VAYLA, several students and young leaders from both the Vietnamese and Latino communities, thinks that parents actually have less power in New Orleans today compared to what they did underneath the prior school system. She argues that eliminating neighborhood schools has also eliminated the power of parents to get together included in a residential area: \”Parents are fighting individual battles with one of these schools and they're all petrified of what may happen to their kids,\” she says. Meanwhile, principals within the new autonomous landscape tend to be more powerful than ever, functioning more like CEOs who are accountable to handpicked nonprofit boards.

\”That's the ability shift,\” Fajardo says.

Berkshire also found that a lot of children and teenagers have dropped from the public school system entirely, and their lost education isn't reflected in the data set:

\”There would be the huge number of young adults in New Orleans between 16 and 24 who are neither in class or working. The current Way of measuring America study, conducted by the Social Science Research Council, discovered that the higher New Orleans/Metairie region is home to a lot more than 26,000 so-called 'opportunity youth'-the number of students who've dropped from the New Orleans' schools starts to creep up uncomfortably near to the 43,000 students who're still inside them.\”

In a recent blog post, Michael Stone, CEO of New Schools for New Orleans summarized the difficulties still to be faced in New Orleans as well as in every urban school district searching for direction:

\”An encouraging decade of educational growth hasn't erased the pervasive sense that reform ended 'to' the town, rather than via collective action by citizens, veteran educators, and African American families in New Orleans. And our city's progress hasn't cured the social ills that young adults here face: poverty, violence and trauma, sky-high incarceration rates, fractured mental health services. That is a daunting list.\”

And Professor Harris also thinks that what has happened positively in New Orleans should be taken with a large grain of salt by educational leaders looking for answers in their own school districts. \”Unfortunately, the results of even the best programs are often not replicated when tried elsewhere, there are great reasons to think the circumstances were especially ripe for achievement in New Orleans.\”-Marty Levine

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Public Schools

Hastings, NE Public School District Revives Loyalty Oaths


If you thought some of the stupidest manifestations of the McCarthy era were dead and buried, reconsider. The American Civil Liberties Union had to tell the college district of Hastings, Nebraska, it should not require teachers \”to pledge that they'll teach students to like america.\”

The Hastings school district's requirement is suspiciously like the \”loyalty oaths\” that Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) promoted during the 1950s. The final Court eventually ruled that employees couldn't be required to sign a loyalty oath, but a situation law in Nebraska enacted within the 1950s remains and serves as the foundation for the Hastings school district's request.

The Nebraska ACLU legal director, Amy Miller, noted that Hastings might be hit having a civil rights lawsuit if it went forward using the loyalty oaths. School superintendent Craig Kautz, however, said the school district's action was legal which at least one of the two loyalty oaths around the books in Nebraska was still being valid.

\”As a public school, we can not selectively decide what laws we follow and which ones we don't,\” Kautz explained. \”I just hope we do not get dragged into something that's above our level.\”

Still burdened with McCarthy-era laws, Nebraska's two loyalty laws are these:

  • One requires all public school teachers to pledge that they will \”instill students with an knowledge of the U.S. and Nebraska Constitution, a knowledge and history of the nation and the sacrifices designed to achieve its 'present greatness,' an appreciation and devotion to the polices that made America the 'finest country on the planet to live,' and opposition to any or all groups and activities that would destroy the present form of government.\”
  • The other that needs public servants, presumably more than teachers, \”to disavow any ties to political parties that advocate the violent overthrow from the government.\”

If you're surprised by Nebraska, you might be more surprised to find a loyalty oath requirement in California mandated through the state constitution. The California loyalty oath text reads as follows:

\”I, ___, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic, which i will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the us and the Constitution from the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties where I'm about to enter.\”

Should we ignore Hastings and ignore California for imposing loyalty oaths? Are they simply meaningless requirements that government employees (and volunteers!) can sign without a second thought? As politics within this country has become more divisive and antagonistic toward people who hold different beliefs, loyalty oaths aren't inconsequential and meaningless. Remember Texas state legislator Molly White, a Republican, who demanded that Muslims who might visit her office have a loyalty oath to renounce Islamic terrorism and to announce allegiance to America and its laws? One can only imagine that within the revival of nativism in American politics, there is a slice from the American electorate that may find loyalty oaths a beautiful idea.

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Public Schools

PBS vs. Moskowitz: Charter School Student Suspensions Gone Wild?


How heavily should our schools depend on suspension being an component of their student discipline practices? Are schools suspending their students too frequently but for the wrong reasons? These questions emerged from a controversy bubbling around a recent PBS NewsHour are convinced that has drawn a heated response in the leader of the NYC charter school network that believes it plays a huge role ensuring their students are successful.

The Washington Post's Education writer Valerie Strauss described the talk in a recent article:

In the PBS NewsHour video, [reporter John] Merrow reports about student suspensions within the 34-school [Success Academy Charter School] network. Success is structured in the \”no excuses\” type of schooling, which essentially means that teachers have the effect of student achievement and that there aren't any excuses-not hunger or sickness or violent home lives-for students not doing well. Critics have long charged that Success counsels out students who may drag down their school's standardized test scores or present difficult disciplinary problems, which [former NYC City Council member and Success network founder Eva] Moskowitz has repeatedly denied.

Merrow's report noted \”the school's code of conduct runs six pages, labeling as infractions from 'bullying and gambling to littering and neglecting to be in a ready-for-success position.' Getting out of a seat without permission or calling out an answer are infractions as well-and these can lead to suspension.\”

In the recording, Moskowitz is shown telling Merrow, \”If you receive it in the actual early years, you really have to suspend far less once the children are older, simply because they understand what is anticipated of these.\”

In an eight-page letter for hosting Judy Woodruff, Ms. Moskowitz strongly challenged Merrow's reporting and also the conclusions he had reached about Success schools.

Educators at Success Academies love children and try to meet the requirements of every student. Mr. Merrow may have taken his report being an chance to investigate how challenging it can be for teachers to balance the needs of children who have severe behavioral issues and those of other students who deserve a safe and productive learning environment. Instead, Mr. Merrow created a false portrait of educators suspending a child willy-nilly only for wearing red sneakers or not keeping his shirt tucked in. By doing this, Mr. Merrow denigrated hard work of these educators. He owes them a correction and apology for his untruthful and unethical reporting.

Moskowitz specifically contested PBS claims that Success schools use suspension more other NYC schools and for very minor infractions. She also known as the show out for underplaying how successful her schools' students are when compared to their peers. The argument continued even after Woodruff responded to Ms. Moskowitz in a note that stood behind the precision from the report but apologized for not giving Ms. Moskowitz a chance to specifically react to the interview of one family who spoke specifically regarding their child's experience while successful Student.

Ms. Moskowitz has responded to Woodruff having a second, stronger letter, again challenging PBS's findings that Success uses suspension more frequently than other schools.

More important than how often Success uses suspensions to how its data is analyzed is the growing body of research pointing towards the harmful impact of suspension on students, particular students of color, and the growing call for a general reduction in its use and more reliance upon alternative types of discipline. In a recent blog post, the Albert Shanker Institute's Leo Casey summarized current thinking \”inspired with a body of research showing that overly punitive disciplinary coverage is ineffective and discriminatory.\”

Based about this research evidence, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and School Discipline Consensus Project from the Council of State Governments have gone on record around the harmful effects of employing such policies. The U.S. Education Department, the U.S. Justice Department, civil rights and civil liberties organizations, consortia of researchers, national foundations, and the Dignity in Schools advocacy coalition have examined the state of student discipline in America's schools considering these studies.

Their findings? Suspensions and expulsions, the most severe types of school discipline, are used excessively in American schools, often for such minor infractions for example \”talking back\” or just being out of uniform. Further, these severe punishments are being applied disproportionality to students of color, especially African-American and Latino boys, students with disabilities and LGBT youth.

As a result of these data, the U.S. Education Department and U.S. Justice Department issued guidance to varsities, according to their discovering that discriminatory purposes of suspensions and expulsions were violating Title IV and Title VI from the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Because this guidance came from the government agencies that are faced with the enforcement from the Civil Rights Act, it added the force from the law to the powerful moral arguments for addressing the issue of discriminatory discipline. School districts and schools, public and charter, took notice.

Ms. Moskowitz is vocal in her alternate view.

At a current press conference, Success Academy Charter Schools CEO Eva Moskowitz addressed the problem of student discipline. \”It is horrifying,\” she told reporters, that critics of her charter schools' high suspension rates don't understand \”that five-year-olds perform some pretty violent things.\” Moskowitz then pivoted to her displeasure with student discipline in New York City (NYC) public schools, asserting that disorder and disrespect have become rampant.

For the sake of her students, let's hope Eva Moskowitz pays enough to learn from the work of others and alter her practice.

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Public Schools

The NCRP Debate on Market Approaches to Education Reform


At first glance, it might happen to be reasonable to inquire about why the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy may wish to host a arguements for and against advocates and opponents of market-based approaches in education reform. What was the upside of picking that issue for a debate above any one of many other issues where the efficacy of market-based strategies in significant societal issues is, as they say, \”debatable?\”

The \”privatization\” question in public places policy, in which public programs tend to be more or less ceded to the private sector (specially the market-driven for-profit sector) to structure and implement, is at the center of many initiatives. These include the proliferation of private sector builders and operators of prisons, proposals to show over municipal water systems to personal corporations, and even the turning over of child welfare services to for-profit companies.

In this instance, the roots of the debate were in an NCRP report published in May 2021, a part of NCRP's \”Philamplify\” series, around the Walton Family Foundation, subtitled, \”How Can This Market-Oriented Grantmaker Advance Community-Led Solutions for Greater Equity?\” When compared with earlier NCRP reports around the Walton Family Foundation, notably NCRP's 2005 report, \”The Waltons and Wal-Mart: Self-Interested Philanthropy,\” and its 2007 follow-up, \”Strategic Grantmaking: Foundations and the School Privatization Movement, it had been distinctly less critical from the ideology and agenda from the Arkansas philanthropic behemoth. Both earlier reports indicated that the foundation's promotion of faculty choice, charter schools, and college vouchers in education reform had resulted in a pernicious undermining of public school systems.

When you are looking at market approaches, however, as Sherece West-Scantlebury, the president and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and chair from the NCRP board, noted at the beginning of the controversy, NCRP is \”agnostic.\” Actually, for that Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation itself, headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas, West-Scantlebury described the Walton Family Foundation, headquartered in Bentonville 200 miles away, as a \”great partner\” for her foundation's programs. Walton has a major programmatic emphasis in its \”home region,\” with grantmaking focused on Northwest Arkansas and Delta region of Arkansas and Mississippi totaling more than $40 million in 2021, while Winthrop Rockefeller is totally focused on Arkansas's advancement, both with overlapping commitments to education programs in Arkansas, such as the two foundations' joint sponsorship in 2021 from the \”ForwARd Partnership for Arkansas Education\” initiative.

The Philamplify report on the Waltons was really complimentary of the Walton Foundation's market-based approaches in the environmental programming, lauding the \”powerful and lasting results\” it has achieved in its environmental portfolio through \”leveraging the power of markets as a key strategic element\” (p. 13). Although the report noted the criticism of Naomi Klein the Walton Family Foundation continues to be strongly connected to the \”big greens\” such as the Nature Conservancy and also the Environmental Defense Fund (p. 29), that it has thus far sidestepped engagement within the core environmental issue of man-made global warming (p. 28), and that \”the foundation's environmental grantmaking can't be viewed as discrete from Walmart's corporate interests\” (p. 8), the general impression was one of the Walton Family Foundation as an effective \”triple bottom line\” philanthropy in environmental issues.

Public education is commonly more contentious in current politics, particularly as education reformers promote \”school choice\” and rigorous testing of students and teachers as a public policy agenda while teachers unions yet others question the efficacy of education reform and also the motivations of the reformers. While liberals tend to be favorably disposed than conservatives to unions and much more suspicious of using tax revenues for private school vouchers, they've been mixed on charter schools, that are chartered within public school systems and frequently established and defended by liberal groups. (Witness the pro-charter reports from the National Council of los angeles Raza and also the Center for American Progress here and because two examples.)

On education, the NCRP's latest Walton Philamplify report contained criticisms of the foundation's approach, but was not as eviscerating as the 2005 and 2007 reports. The Philamplify report noted (but didn't challenge) the Walton Family Foundation's thought that school choice or public education in general is \”the best lever to interrupt periodic poverty\”-that is, \”improved academic outcomes are the answer to better life outcomes\” (p. 16). It summarized the foundation's strategy as \”rel(ying) around the core worth of empowering parents to select where their kids go to school.\”

Interviewees both inside and outside the building blocks acknowledged that school choice wasn't a \”silver bullet,\” however the report didn't wonder if other motivations may be behind the foundation's education strategies, for example lowering the size of government, smashing the teachers unions, creating opportunities for schools that allow for less-than-traditional public curricula (e.g., religious schools or the ones that teach dubious theories for example \”intelligent design\”), or using charter schools as vanguards within public systems to ultimately weaken them and replace all of them with private school alternatives. In fact, the NCRP report credited the Walton Family Foundation with \”a genuine concern for and resolve for increasing opportunity for people residing in poverty\” (p. 4) and offered recommendations to \”amplify [its] social justice impact.\” Taking Walton's authenticity on educational empowerment without any consideration, the report required the building blocks to \”embody the foundation's commitment to 'empowerment' by authentically engaging members of communities most impacted by issues it funds so that stakeholders can help determine the very best strategies and solutions\” (p. 5).

That kind of analysis of the foundation whose donors-the people in the ultra-right-wing Walton family-are major contributors to Republican political candidates (detailed in reports, such as here, and this article from Bloomberg, though the Waltons have curried support from politicians of both sides to improve its public image and gain broader acceptance for its environmental and education strategies) was certain to raise questions of where NCRP stood around the efficacy of market approaches to education reform, instead of the recommendations in the are accountable to make the Walton Family Foundation more efficient by maintaining its high payout rates, continuing its focus on general operating funds, continuing its engagement of \”stakeholders\” in its market-oriented environmental program, prioritizing \”equity\” within the foundation's educational programming, increasing its engagement of stakeholders in its education programs, diversifying its board and staff composition, and \”conven(ing) grantees to foster shared learning and networking\” (pp. 4-5).

The NCRP \”debate,\” moderated by West-Scantlebury, pitted Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow and v . p . at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, using the largely pro-market position, against Brandon Johnson, the deputy policy director of the Chicago Teachers Union, on the anti side, with a panel of commentators-Lori Bezahler, president of the Edward W. Hazen Foundation; Deborah McGriff, managing director from the New Schools Venture Fund; and Jennifer Esterline, project consultant for Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium.

Pondiscio made it clear in the outset that he was \”not entirely sold\” on market-based approaches, finding them limited, and that he thinks \”instructional reform\” is as necessary as \”structural reform.\” He explained that without instructional reform-and without the \”sunshine\” effects of testing-\”schools of preference can and do become a second flavor of bad.\” Advancing equality, he suggested, requires a lot more than charters and selection, even though he himself is really a teacher at a charter school in Harlem, since the well-to-do can still choose the schools they think work and leave those without resources to suffer in substandard schools, whether traditional schools or charters. The subtext of his argument was that instructional reform isn't just a market-oriented approach, though with the flexibility accorded to charter schools, it is perhaps more likely to be tested in schools outside the realm of traditional public schools.

Johnson countered less on educational policy and much more on politics. He suggested that public education was \”being eradicated from neighborhoods in our country.\” Citing a concern that market-oriented education reform would be a matter of people \”in a privileged space dictating\” to \”people who seem like me,\” Johnson noted that free public education would be a \”Negro idea,\” the contention of W.E.B. DuBois (referenced in Eugene F. Provenzo's edited 2002 volume, Du Bois on Education, p. 158). Johnson's fundamental argument was that market approaches and philanthropy's involvement through the Walton Family Foundation yet others like the Broad Foundation were fundamentally \”anti-democratic\” and do \”not reflect what black folks desire.\” The shift to market approaches reduces the accountability structures in education, he explained, though he suggested the Broad Foundation, the education-oriented philanthropy of Los Angeles real estate and insurance mogul Eli Broad, was actively trying reduce democratic control by substituting appointed school boards for elected boards.

Johnson and Pondiscio disagreed about whether market-oriented reforms are working, each very briefly referencing research against but for the educational achievements of charter schools, for example, with no real opportunity in the session to talk about the more knowledge about those contradictory assessments. However, Johnson took on one of the uncontested arguments of the Walton Foundation, that school choice helps eradicate poverty, contending rather that the poverty of the family limits the child's use of educational opportunities to begin with. Pondiscio took on the key contention of Johnson's and NCRP's recommendations, suggesting that \”local control [of schools] can be an overrated virtue\” which the issue in schools is a lack of expertise, thus the shortcoming of faculties to craft and implement effective instructional reforms.

The political dynamics implicit in the market-orientation of school choice arose only in side comments. Johnson cited market-oriented approaches being an \”attack on workers\” overall, but as a CTU member, he somewhat surprisingly didn't specifically cite the truth that charter schools and schools generally replace unionized teacher workforces with non-union teachers. The involvement from the Walton Family Foundation in supporting the charter school takeover of public schools in post-Katrina New Orleans is really a powerful just to illustrate, not only in the breaking from the teachers union, however the firing of a significant quantity of black teachers to become replaced by lower-paid, often white Teach for America recruits.

Pondiscio referenced another opening for any more political discussion of the role of charter schools in the school choice agenda. He noted that late Albert Shanker, the longtime president from the American Federation of Teachers, was an advocate of charter schools. Shanker thought that charters could be laboratories for testing new ideas that may then be extended to traditional public schools. An effective counter to Pondiscio's argument could have been that Shanker's concept of charters as would-be \”generators of innovation\” wasn't designed to using them as a parallel, competitive alternative system to public schools, but that did not happen.

In their post-debate commentary, Bezahler suggested that markets are \”wholly inappropriate and destructive\” for public education, reducing collective responsibility for ensuring quality public education overall and shifting the onus to the family to make choices. However, the options often available do not really result in equality. She cited, correctly, information that showed charter schools and private schools have been resulting in more racial segregation rather than less. Actually, the amount in voucher subsidies that families might get to go to private schools are simply about never within the realm of making quality private schools generally affordable to lower-income families, creating deeper amounts of income and racial segregation in education. On Twitter, one attendee quoted Bezahler to possess said, \”This isn't a market of faculties that parents choose, but a market of students that schools choose.\”

Despite Bezahler's move toward a political analysis of the school choice issue, the debate largely centered on whether \”choice\” creates better educational outcomes and greater equality for children who reach attend charter schools and publicly subsidized private schools. In a summary statement by an NCRP staffer, there was a phone call for that Walton Family Foundation's education grantmaking to be more \”inclusive\” and \”adaptive\” such as the foundation's market-oriented environmental grantmaking. Later, by email, an NCRP spokesperson suggested that the insufficient adaption and inclusion was reflected within the foundation's \”education grantmaking-singularly centered on charter schools.\”

The political and pragmatic aspects of the Walton Family Foundation's education agenda escaped the debate. The New Orleans experiment was mentioned only in passing, although it might have been an engaging illustration of the political as well as structural and instructional dimensions of the foundation's advocacy of school choice. There wasn't any discussion of the Walton Family Foundation's funding of advocacy organizations or organizations that promote systemic alternatives to traditional public schools such as the Alliance for college Choice (a lot more than $20 million in the last 10 years), Teach for America (more than $82 million), and also the Black Alliance for Educational Options (around $12 million), simply to name a few from the nationally prominent school \”choice\” or \”privatization\” advocacy organizations.

It might have been the setting: NCRP identifying itself as \”agnostic\” around the role from the market in education reform; the moderator coming from a foundation that, by virtue of shared geography, partners using the Walton Family Foundation; and also the tendency of nonprofits, as NCRP itself has noted elsewhere, to steer clear of criticizing foundations as a result of \”fear to be black-listed or de-funded.\” Philanthropy, as well as the critics of philanthropy, tend toward politeness, helped along through the moderator's debate admonition to avoid \”hair-pulling\” along with other unpleasant possible debate tactics. But the problem might have been the definitions in the debate. A tweet in the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation told us the \”framing terms\” for that debate were these:

The scope of presidency, the influence of corporations in the public sphere, the shifting of faculty management in the public sector to private for-profit management entities, the function of foundations (Broad, Gates, Walton, etc.) in setting the nation's public education agenda through funding government programs to emphasise charter schools (the Race to the Top, etc.), questions of the funders' approaches to the teachers' unions, etc.

[Full disclosure: This author was the writer of the 2007 NCRP report on school privatization called the executive director of NCRP when the 2005 set of the Wal-Mart Foundation and Walton Family Foundation was written.]

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Public Schools

Chicago Public Schools to Be Faced with New, Late Round of Budget Cuts


Late last week, the Chicago Board of Education announced a new round of budget cuts in the individual school level. According to the district's pr release, issued on September 25th:

The Chicago Public Schools-took the next phase in its school budgeting process, providing principals with adjusted school budgets to mirror their actual enrollment, leading to increased funding for schools which had more students than projected and decreased funding for schools with fewer students than projected. Previously two years, CPS hasn't reduced schools' funding when their enrollment fell short of projections, however this year budgetary constraints imply that the district can't afford to hold those schools harmless.

These new reductions came following the school board had spent the summer wrestling with how you can balance their budget. To be able to open school this September, the board had been instructed to borrow more than $1 billion, laid off more than 1,000 employees, and make major reductions in individual school budgets. As difficult because these actions were, schools opened according to staffing plans based on that budget.

According to CPS watchdog Catalyst Chicago, the district's latest action was driven by enrollment data (which may be downloaded here) showing district-run schools were losing an even greater number of students than was predicted earlier around while charter and contract schools were educating slightly more CPS students:

\”The lower enrollment means district-run schools will receive about $15.9 million under was projected in July. (Unlike in previous years, CPS officials are not holding schools harmless if fewer students enroll than was projected.) Those additional cuts include about $13.3 million in funds set aside for per-pupil disbursement, as well as 52.5 fewer special education aides and 16.5 fewer special education teachers-. District officials say about 325 educators could lose their jobs as their school didn't meet enrollment projections.\”

Schools facing budget reductions must now deal with restructuring an educational program that's been functioning for any month. For example, Kelvyn Park High was expected to lose 125 students and $1.7 million. The school administration cut 19 personnel, including nine teachers, a career coach, a college counselor, and the school's only full-time social worker. But since 77 fewer students turned up than projected, they've got to cut another $496,000.

Mid-year reductions to special education funding brought a particularly strong response, with parents warning the district that they were willing to go to the courts to ensure federal requirements continued to be met. Rod Estvan from the advocacy group Access Living told the school board, \”Cuts to special education following the school year begins are unprecedented. [-] The need for special education teachers grows throughout the year as students are properly identified.\”

The timing of this new round of budget cuts reflects more than the possible lack of ample and stable funding for Chicago's 400,000 students. Which was the problem being addressed as the district's budget was finalized over the summer. This new round of cuts is definitely an indicator of 1 of the unique challenges of the educational reform strategy that emphasizes school choice. Because every student has the capacity to consider attending one of the more than 400 schools directly operated by CPS and the over 100 independently operated charter schools that serve the City of Chicago, projecting enrollment and allocating the district's resources becomes a lot more difficult. With attendance based not just on community demographics but additionally around the success of the school's recruitment efforts, it is difficult to accurately project who the \”winners\” and the \”losers\” will be. And also the real losers become the students in schools who're instructed to make cuts and adjust educational plans which are already underway.

And as painful as this round is, the district's balanced budget counted on almost half a billion dollars in new state educational funding. Using the state's budget still in limbo as political leaders still skirmish, these new funds are not certain. If they are not realized, how CPS may change but still keep teaching its students is unclear.

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Public Schools

Scale and Sustainability-What's a Funder to Do?


Whether you're employed at a small operating foundation or the world's largest grantmaking one, \”scale\” and \”sustainability\” are two words that have in all probability dominated lots of staff meetings. That's not surprising, since both are important indicators of an investment's impact. But exactly how will we decide whether something we fund is scalable and sustainable?

Five years ago, I ran the Chez Panisse Foundation, a company in Berkeley, California, that helps young people connect the things they eat to the health of the environment. Our goals for that Edible Schoolyard were ambitious: to redesign school lunch programs and make kitchen gardens in each and every school in America. The program's founder, author and chef Alice Waters, built a model program that integrated academic curriculum with hands-on learning. Holding to very specific design principles, Waters taken into consideration everything, in the way children worked together in the garden, to the way they cleaned up, to what they talked about while chopping vegetables. Today, there are only two official edible schoolyards, and the foundation (now known as the Edible Schoolyard Project) continues to fund the initial program in a Berkeley junior high school.

Was our work a success or a failure?

It depends. If the goal of the Chez Panisse Foundation was to replicate the model \”as is,\” we failed utterly. But when our goal ended up being to adopt, adapt, or perhaps reinvent the model, our work would be a wild success. The Edible Schoolyard made a movement that continues to grow. It has spawned a large number of kitchen gardens and inspired a large number of urban school districts to improve meals for his or her students. Today, all Berkeley public schools have kitchen-garden programs, and all sorts of students get freshly cooked meals with healthy local ingredients. In a nutshell, we transformed the machine in a single school district and made a model for the country.

Cynthia Coburn, a professor at the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University, has studied scale-the spreading of practices to greater numbers of people and organizations-and sustainability-the ability to conserve a change of practice over time. She says measuring a foundation's success at scale depends on three simple questions whose answers can vary with projects and alter with time:

  1. What are you trying to scale? (A program, framework, some design principles?)
  2. Who is the target audience, and what's the context for implementation and scale?
  3. What are you attempting to make happen? (Would you seek adaptation, adoption, replication or reinvention?)

Common Approaches to Scale

At the balance & Melinda Gates Foundation, we are five years into a 15-year technique to improve college readiness in K-12 education, and we're asking ourselves the questions. We are dedicated to supporting innovations that work not just a couple of times, but persistently-innovations that improve the lives of as much as feasible for as long as possible. Since launching our strategy, we've be deliberate about seeking solutions that travel well. It isn't always easy. There are pockets of excellence in U.S. education, but they don't spread as soon as we'd hope or survive so long as we would like.

As we try to overcome those problems, we've many userful stuff here about scale and sustainability. And we now realize that if we are likely to dramatically accelerate change in public schools, traditional methods to scale and sustainability won't work.

Grantmakers typically take one of three methods to scaling.

The first would be to fund an initiative that actually works after which phase it right into a growing number of sites. This strategy of \”piloting to scale\” is sensible; it's usually a good idea to try something out prior to taking it on the highway. Conditions can change along the way, however, and piloting needs time to work and limits investments to certain places.

The second strategy is to invest heavily to master an initiative in some sites, then spread the lessons with the hope that others follows. The Edible Schoolyard is an ideal illustration of this \”proof-point\” approach. The task will be smart about replication and also to be clear by what exactly is scalable. It's also worth noting that whenever you put a site on a pedestal in this way, others can knock it off. (\”Of course they were able to do that, given the money they were given!\”) Or the initiative can simply fail, sinking its perceived value even if it had absolutely nothing to use the site's larger problems.

A third method of scaling is to direct investments based on national, state, or district policies. We've seen again and again-through No Child Left Behind, teacher quality initiatives, and today Common Core State Standards-that the classic \”policy play\” can move many states and districts to action. Policy can often give funders their finest chance at systems-level change, but when it lacks evidence of success or support for implementation, it does not result in sustainable scaling. It could even cause backlash.

A Fourth Path: Disciplined Design

What we've learned at the Gates Foundation is the fact that achieving scale and sustainability often needs a fourth approach-one which i call \”disciplined design.\” Starting with a conceptual framework, or perhaps a group of design principles, informed by practice and research. Then you definitely support grantees because they apply these in a number of cases, monitoring implementation to determine what needs to be changed. Often, you find a lever that markedly accelerates the job. Notably, this approach gives practitioners-in our case, teachers-a strong voice: the educators themselves recommend changes based on their experience, and you adjust the framework or build out those components that seem to stay.

Disciplined design requires research and evidence, but it also welcomes new ideas and unintended consequences. It enables for messiness, iteration, and deep inquiry into what exactly works and why. When funders take a disciplined design approach, they connect dots (partners, programs, problems) on multiple fronts and examine individuals, systems, and networks as partners who're all important to scale and sustainability. They accept that scale is not a linear process and that sustainability doesn't happen by chance. Researcher Diana Laurillard, in her book on teaching and technology, says, \”Teaching is a design science in this way that it is aim is to keep improving its practice, in a principled way, building around the work of others.\” Shouldn't this kind of science be our approach as funders?

In using disciplined design to scale our work, we're learning several essential things:

Design matters.

No appear the approach, no initiative will scale well without thoughtful design. Some say that school contexts and teachers' experiences are extremely distinct they can't possibly use the same tools. Others reason that a great tool can function exactly the same way for everyone. The reality lies in the middle. The most successful tools-the ones that actually work best and scale best-hew to some consistent set of design principles and practices, but they are flexible enough so users can adapt them to their own needs. You must be able to help design the various tools, not only find out for their services. Tools (and frameworks) must be tested across a broad swath of users and organizations, and improved along the way.

One in our Gates grantees may be the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC), something to help teachers design high-quality lessons. We started with a fundamental framework to steer growth and development of the tool. Teachers helped build out the framework, creating user-friendly tools according to it by co-designing tasks and templates and assisting to improve them. Their enthusiasm ensured that the project would spread-to places we never might have reached without one. In 2012, LDC and a sister project, the maths Design Collaborative (MDC), were taking hold in only four states. Annually later, they'd reached one more 130,000 teachers in 23 states.

Language matters.

If you'll need a network to be able to scale an initiative, we all need to talk exactly the same language. Teachers within the LDC make their own decisions by what texts and instructional strategies to use, however their vocabulary is consistent across all sites; a \”module\” along with a \”template task\” mean the same thing to any or all of them. Common language helped us scale LDC across a diverse set of networks and districts from Georgia to Colorado to California.

Time matters.

Users need time to incorporate new tools to their practice. Within our case, that means teachers need time throughout the school day to see with colleagues in their content area or grade level. We've funded several districts that are finding creative ways to carve out a minumum of one full day a week for their teachers to understand how to get better at the things they're doing. In a minimum of two of these districts-Fresno, California, and Bridgeport, Connecticut-this time has substantially increased teacher engagement and collaboration. This really is significant, because once the players tend to be more engaged, reforms are much more prone to be widespread, successful, and sustainable.

People matter.

People, not programs or institutions, would be the agents of scale. And these ambassadors don't have to be the actual leaders of a grantee organization. A teacher who's deliberate about improving, seeks out resources to do this, and shares what works could possibly be the most effective person to scale an invaluable tool. With the LDC, the educators we called \”founding partners\” carried the work across their networks and trained their colleagues at their schools. It's important to identify and cultivate these early adopters.

Networks matter.

It's more effective and effective to create and scale an initiative with predictable partners in addition to consider some adjacent networks. Early partners in education initiatives are usually state departments of education and college districts. But at Gates, we've increasingly relied on different types of networks. Our partners in the MDC and LDC included geographic networks like the Southern Regional Education Board, professional networks like the National Writing Project, and repair providers like Scholastic. Rather than investing in just 20 school districts to scale technical assistance and advocacy related to the Common Core State Standards, we invested in networks that reached thousands of districts. And that we see teachers as partners who are able to reach many more.

Stories matter.

\”Foundation speak\” too often separates us from one another and undermines our efforts to convey important messages. We invent new words to reframe the controversy, sometimes towards the detriment of our cause. What is the larger narrative? How's everyone framing the controversy? What are the values that underlie the issue we care so much about? Holding focus groups to border \”our\” issue, we neglect to listen to the themes dominating social and traditional media along with other outlets. By listening better, and understanding the influencers, we might capture a broader group of constituents and attract some unlikely partners. If we are to scale our work, our value proposition must resonate using the people we want to do that work-in our case, teachers and college leaders.

Markets matter.

Innovation is usually constrained with a insufficient resources or tools. Usually the reason is really a dysfunctional market: suppliers don't understand users' needs, or bureaucracy prevents them from reaching them. At Gates, we address both supply and demand. Often what suppliers require is better research about demand; they have to know more about what school leaders have to do their best work. With better information, we are able to create incentives for multiple players to fill these information gaps. We are able to hold design challenges, for example, or make equity investments. Funders can also hold convenings to connect users with innovators, then support rigorous evaluations of these innovations. With better market dynamics, we feel the best innovations will gain traction-and can scale.

We're Still Learning

As Coburn says in \”Spread and Scale within the Digital Age,\” there are four methods to scale: adoption, when organizations or people embrace something; replication, when they utilize it in a prescribed way; adaptation, when they modify tools for local needs; and reinvention, when they make use of the tools as a springboard for innovation.

Most foundations have sooner or later embraced replication; they would like to find a promising model and fund other sites that can implement that model faithfully. Initially, this was the path from the Chez Panisse Foundation. But relying on lockstep replication can backfire. To begin with, tools are never foolproof. The things that work in one place may not work in another because of differences in local context.

Using disciplined designs and considering other factors like time, language, stories, people, markets, and networks might make the work more complicated but the implementation more scalable and sustainable in the end.

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Public Schools

What can Einstein Say? Advice for Educational \”Reformers\”


After reading the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' recent report, \”Most States Have Cut School Funding, and Some Continue Cutting,\” it seems that federal, state and local policymakers may want to don't forget this advice often related to Albert Einstein: \”Everything should be made as simple as possible, although not simpler.\”

Decades of effort and billions of dollars happen to be spent trying to find methods to make sure that all children receive a quality education with little if anything to show for that investment. The CBPP report suggests that we may be missing a very simple fix: ensure that we adequately fund our schools.

Most states provide less support per student for elementary and secondary schools-in some cases, much less-than before the Great Recession, our survey of state budget documents over the last 3 months finds. Worse, some states continue to be cutting eight years following the recession took hold.

CBPP discovered that states made widespread and deep cuts to education formula funding when the recession hit, and at least half of the states still haven't fully restored the cuts eight years later. After adjusting for inflation, twenty-five states are selling less general aid per student this year compared to 2008. In seven of those 25 states, the cuts are 10 % or even more. In three states-Oklahoma, Alabama, and Arizona-the cuts are 15 percent or greater.

The reasons that local and state funding for education has decreased are complex mixture of economic and political factors. But the impact of lower funding on our schools is clear. At a very basic level, ensuring that there is a proper schoolroom for each child is becoming much more difficult when confronted with sharp funding reductions:

Elementary and schools nationally cut capital spending by $28 billion, or 37 percent between fiscal years 2008 and 2021 (the latest year available), after adjusting for inflation. Thirty-eight states cut capital spending over this period, oftentimes drastically. Five states cut capital spending by more than half. Nevada, the state with the sharpest reductions, cut capital spending by 81 percent.

With more students to show, funding reductions have led to a loss of revenue of almost 300,000 educators. CBPP also points out, \”Many states have undertaken education reforms with federal encouragement, for example supporting professional development to enhance teacher quality, improving interventions for young kids to heighten school readiness, and turning around the lowest-achieving schools. Deep cuts in state K -12 spending can limit or stymie those reforms by limiting the funds generally open to improve schools by terminating or undercutting specific reform initiatives.\”

When viewed via a lens given to us by C. Kirabo Jackson, Rucker Johnson, and Claudia Persico in their recent paper, \”The Effect of School Finance Reforms on the Distribution of Spending, Academic Achievement, and Adult Outcomes,\” the CBPP findings take on greater meaning.

A 20 % increase in per-pupil spending each year for those 12 years of public school for kids from poor families results in about 0.9 more completed many years of education, 25 percent higher earnings, along with a 20 percentage-point decrease in the annual incidence of adult poverty; we find no effects for children from non-poor families. The magnitudes of these effects are sufficiently large to get rid of between two-thirds and every one of the gaps in these adult outcomes between those raised in poor families and those raised in non-poor families.

If we care about the education issues we appear to like arguing about, time for you to pay a lot more focus on Albert Einstein's advice and worry about the way we fund our schools properly and fairly.

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Public Schools

Making Charter Schools Public Schools Requires Higher Standards of Accountability


Last September, the Washington State Supreme Court held that \”charter schools did not meet the definition of a common or public school and weren't entitled to a share of state education funding.\” As the ruling directly affected only the 1,200 students who were beginning their school year, a legal court highlighted the need to define why is a charter school a public school.

For many charter advocates, being free of the guidelines and regulations that apply to traditional public schools is an essential ingredient for success. This higher level of autonomy allows charters great latitude to define their curriculum, their educational philosophy, and to operate outside of existing union contracts with their own governance structures. And therein lies the rub. Traditional public schools operate in a publicly accountable framework; their governing bodies are directly elected or appointed by an elected mayor or governor and their operations are held to the same degree of oversight much like other public bodies within their jurisdictions. The Washington Supreme Court's ruling asked us to think of a different way to ensure public accountability for our schools.

As a new legislative year begins, two Washington lawmakers have proposed legislation that they believe will meet this concern. According to the Seattle Times, their proposal is modeled on frameworks getting used in Boston and Los Angeles, where charters come under the direct auspices from the local school board:

Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, and Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, are co-sponsors of the bill, that they think would pass constitutional muster since the charters would be directly accountable to an elected school board.

The proposed legislation tries to find the right balance point that can unlock innovation and still remain accountable.

Billig asserted under his proposed bill, school districts might have much tighter control over the charter schools, with increased freedom to revoke contracts or not renew them. The charters still would differ from other public schools, with the capacity to decide the length of the school day and year, staffing levels, and how to train, hire and fire staff. Additionally they might have their very own privately appointed boards, but the elected school board would have to approve the facts, which does not occur now.

This structure brings traditional public schools and charter schools nearer to alignment, but still leaves some key questions unresolved. Are educational innovation and improvement only possible outside the current structure of public education? May be the degree of public engagement possible inside the framework of traditional public education systems antithetical educational excellence? Are we willing to trade off the messiness of democratic governance for the hope of improved schools?-Martin Levine

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Public Schools

Can Parental Fundraising Bring Equality to Public School Education?


Schools want the parents of their students to be deeply engaged in the educational process. But could the parent-school partnership get carried away? Laura McKenna, writing recently within the Atlantic, looked at the dramatic growth of parent fundraising and asked, \”Is all of this work from parent-school groups-work that is completed with the very best of intentions-unfairly increasing advantages in already privileged communities?\” It is a question that talks to the heart of a larger conversation about public education and educational equity.

Earlier this season, Beth Gazley at Indiana University wrote in our print quarterly about the growing trend of public services relying on philanthropic support and described the significant growth in public school fundraising based on her ongoing research. Total school-focused philanthropy had already reached more than three-quarters of the billion dollars by 2010. She cautioned,

Most from the philanthropy fond of public schools is local, meaning that wealthy school districts have a philanthropic advantage and few people are paying attention to fairness and balance. And, indeed, we found clear evidence that across the nation private philanthropy for public schools exacerbates rather than eliminates budgetary inequities across school districts. Specifically, although most educational funding still comes from taxpayers, we discovered that wealthy school districts are able to provide more dollars per pupil overall through this philanthropic \”bonus.\”

The Atlantic article citied the job of Rob Reich, associate professor of political science at Stanford and co-director from the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, who sees this same negative impact of oldsters raising funds for his or her children' schools. In a 2021 New York Times op-ed, he wrote:

Wanting to support your own children's education is understandable, but it also has unintended, pernicious effects…When donors give to their own child's school or district, they're creating a charitable contribution that the authorities treats in the same manner as a donation to a food bank or disaster relief. But charity such as this is not relief for the poor. It is, actually, the alternative. Private giving to public schools widens the space between rich and poor. It exacerbates inequalities in financing. It is philanthropy in the service of conferring edge over the already well-off. By decreasing the taxes from the donor and diminishing the tax revenues that would otherwise have been collected and partly given to rich and poor schools alike, state and federal governments have been in effect subsidizing the charitable activity of parents who donate to their child's school. In this respect, the policies that govern private giving to public schools seem perverse. Tax policy makes federal and state governments complicit in the deepening of existing inequalities that they're ostensibly responsible for diminishing in the first place.

On sleep issues of the concern is Jay P. Greene, professor of education and political science in the University of Arkansas, who calls the cash collected by parents insignificant relative to the quantity spent each year on public schools.

Charitable sources from the Gates Foundation to the local parent-teacher organization contribute an estimated $2 billion total to public schools annually. When compared to the $600 billion the nation allocated to K-12 education during the 2021 fiscal year, he noted, the total spending from philanthropy is \”buckets into the sea.\”

\”The millions that the PTAs and foundations raise every years appears like lots of money,\” Greene said, \”but in reality, it is a rounding error.\”

The absolute amount raised by parents is not big enough to make the distinction between \”rich\” and \”poor\” schools, but they do exacerbate an increasing incidence of imbalance in opportunity. At some elite high schools around the country, parents raise thousands and thousands or even millions to aid guest lecturers, science equipment and scholarships. And beyond exactly what the money can purchase, this focus on \”my school\” plays a role in a really narrow view of community and the responsibilities of citizens towards the common good. Currently when public funding for schools has decreased, a reliance upon school-based philanthropy will end up increasingly troublesome if equity is our objective.

McKenna shows that \”rather than restricting affluent parents from adding to their public schools or shaming them for their efforts, perhaps they may be asked to consider public education beyond their town boundaries-partnering with schools in less affluent areas and forging a fellowship over time. In better understanding that public education extends beyond the five-mile radius of the communities, parents may be prepared to share a portion of their considerable resources and social capital to profit other kids.\” That's the change. Shall we be up to it?-Martin Levine

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