Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Probation = Not a Good Thing

Again, I thought Charter Schools were supposed to solve all these problems.

First of all, I like how this article came out on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving at 6:31pm. One wonders which issue of the paper it ran in, and how many people read that issue while preparing for Turkey Day. I follow these issues, but I was traveling then. Dangerblond had to tell me about this, and I had to go back a few days to find it online.

Turkey Day. Indeed.

The Orleans Parish School Board only has "local control" over a handful of schools. (Please see chart and post at G-Bitch) Nine of them are accredited through SACS (like Ben Franklin High School, OP Walker and Warren Easton), but not all of them are. One would think that the administrative staff OPSB pays out of NOLA's property tax dollars would be able to keep up with what is going on at their schools more frequently than every two years.

But, as we can see from the chart, all four charter schools on probation with OPSB are either non-network charter schools or are not directly overseen by the OPSB Superintendent.

So, instead of one system of oversight here, we have six: the Louisiana Board of Education (well paid as they are), overseeing the OPSB and threatening to take away schools if performance isn't there; the OPSB that contracts out the charters; and the charter organizations of each individual school.

And yet, charters are politically sold to us as a way to get bureaucracy out of the way of childrens' learning.

Let us look now to the charges that brought on probation: two are on probation for academic reasons and two are on probation for financial reasons. The financials come down to ineffective auditing practices at two schools. This means the chartering organization has to spend money hiring accountants and auditors (or contractors) to do this work, while the OPSB has their own auditors and accountants to audit the auditors. So much for getting bureaucracy out of the way of childrens' learning.*

The acadmic probations hit one school due to test scores and another due to attendance. These are problems that face almost every school - but what will happen to these charters if the problems are not resolved? Well, if they aren't brought up enough, the charters between the OPSB and the people running these schools will be revoked or not renewed. That means some other organization (and perhaps several) will bid for the contract to run these schools. How much turnover will this cause each school?

How does high (or entire) staff and teacher turnover help test scores or attendnace in any way besides lowering it? How many years will the new staff need to adjust to the new way of doing things? How many years will the students need to adjust to the new staff during their adjustment period?

And yet, these events are the exact selling points for charter advocates.

Now, I don't want y'all to get this idea that I in any way support the system that was here before. I don't want y'all to think that I'm completely against the idea of charter schools (I have many friends who do fantastic work at charters). My problem is this "system", which looks to have a lot of the same problems of whatever existed here before.

*(though the "fix" for this "red tape" would be to contract the same company to audit the schools and audit themselves auditing the schools - coming soon from a politician's mouth, I'm sure of it)



Leigh C. said...

A greater amount of money for the charters to operate also comes from private sources, many of which are drying up in this economy. And the problems that plagued the traditional public schools are still not being dealt with effectively. There's been little to no demonstrated understanding from the government and from education administrators that "ALL of public education needs help, so let's help it all". It's all charters, all the time, it seems - and more decentralization is in the admins' interest in terms of CYA...but not necessarily in terms of what's best for the kids or the teachers.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

And the problems that plagued the traditional public schools are still not being dealt with effectively.

This sums up the entire discussion in 16 words.

Uncle Jam said...

And some of the bureacracy will never go away. It doesn't matter whether it's an OPSB school, or RSD, or charter of either flavor, guess what happens when a teacher slips and falls? The OPSB ALWAYS gets sued, because they own the building and, sadly, they're seen as the party most likely to pony up a settlement.

How can we fix THAT part?

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Nice threadjack, Jam.

You fix that part, as you fix all frivolous lawsuits everywhere, by appointing or electing judges who throw out ridiculous suits and hear only those with merit. Many judges already do this every day, and the "slips and falls" you're talking about are the rare exceptions that get undue attention.

Another way is for OPSB (and many school districts) to have attorneys on salary. Quashing the little stuff should be part of their job. I know plenty of school districts that already have such attorneys on the payroll making beaucoup cash.

And the stuff I've seen in the system that teachers or parents could have sued over but didn't would just about bankrupt any local school district. Especially this one.

mominem said...

OPSB auditing anyone is a sad commentary. This is an organization that has never been able to account for anything.

Uncle Jam said...

apologies if the threadjack was a bad thing...

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Not a bad thing (hence my very real reply), just looking at the thread from a very different angle.

Though my roommates and I were discussing school litigation just last night. Many behaviors by schools in this area are conducted due to fear of parents suing the school.

What is unfortunate is that the schools seem to fear making the most legally defensible decisions on the belief that the school system will not support them, legally.

I'm surprised there aren't many, many more lawsuits on the parts of teachers and parents who are agrieved by the conditions in the current system.

G Bitch said...

I'm surprised there aren't many, many more lawsuits on the parts of teachers and parents who are agrieved by the conditions in the current system.

Because beggars can't be choosers is the answer. When you have no choices and no one has to listen to you or your complaints [if you think a charter school will put up with a pushy/mouthy/complaining parent, even if that parent is 105% justified or correct, you do not understand the consequences of privatization of public education], why would you bother? And if you were "educated" by a similar or same broken-ass system, do you have the resources to sue? And I don't just mean cash.

Running a school system requires some bureaucracy. The bureaucracy-is-bad line is ideological, not practical or pragmatic. Like anything else created and run by humans, it can be effective, damaging, pointless, or the saving grace. Instead of cleansing the schools of teachers, why not cleanse the OPSB of do-nothing folks who go to work to get paid and suck the system for whatever they can get? Even charter management organizations are finding that running schools does require some bureaucracy. There are well-meaning and well-educated people in this town [well, there are still a few] who would be effective and proud to be effective.

Meanwhile, the classrooms continue to suffer. Notice how none of this conversation involves teachers, children, or actual education or learning? That is what reform has brought us, yet another reason/tool to ignore the real problems and therefore find no actual solutions.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I talk about the bureaucracy for precisely the reasons you mention: the politization of it is a bunch of crap. One of the narratives behind the "reform" movement is the "smaller-government" meme that says elected officials are incabable of fixing a thing, so let us contract the thing out to elected officials' friends.

Doing so fixes exactly zero problems, and we are starting to see that lately with many of the charters.

Because beggars can't be choosers is the answer....And if you were "educated" by a similar or same broken-ass system, do you have the resources to sue? And I don't just mean cash.

Yeah, you right. On many levels. One thing that always troubled me with a lot of teachers and administrators here is that they were unable to see, and I mean conceptualize, the systemic problems that we face. This was especially problematic coming from RSD system administrators.

And if you have trouble conceptualizing the problem, you're not going to see the possible litigation that can arise from certain situations.

Add to that a healthy dose of "you-or-your-friends-lose-jobs-if-you-complain" fear, and it tends to keep the whistleblowers at bay.