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July 23, 2012

When Florida gave vouchers for Special Education, terrible things happened

Most charters do not accept special education students. I's one of the ways they manage to pull in better test scores and operate more cheaply than some public schools. So when charter schools are given hundreds of special education students, what happens? Let's turn to Florida, America's Apocalypse Now, for the answer. Vouchers for Special Education? -- Diane Ravitch's blog
While the state played the role of the blind sugar daddy, here is what went on at South Florida Prep, according to parents, students, teachers, and public records: Two hundred students were crammed into ever-changing school locations, including a dingy strip-mall space above a liquor store and down the hall from an Asian massage parlor. Eventually, fire marshals and sheriffs condemned the “campus” as unfit for habitation, pushing the student body into transience in church foyers and public parks. The teachers were mostly in their early 20s. An afternoon for the high school students might consist of watching a VHS tape of a 1976Laurence Fishburne blaxploitation flick —Cornbread, Earl and Me — and then summarizing the plot. In one class session, a middle school teacher recommended putting “mother nature” — a woman’s period — into spaghetti sauce to keep a husband under thumb. “We had no materials,” says Nicolas Norris, who taught music despite the lack of a single instrument. “There were no teacher edition books. There was no curriculum.” In May 2009, two vanloads of South Florida Prep kids were on the way back from a field trip to Orlando when one of the vehicles flipped along Florida’s Turnpike. A teacher and an 18-year-old senior were killed. Turns out another student, age 17 and possessing only a learner’s permit, was behind the wheel and had fallen asleep. The families of the deceased and an insurance company are suing Brown for negligence. Meanwhile, Brown openly used a form of corporal punishment that has been banned in Miami-Dade and Broward schools for three decades. Four former students and the music teacher Norris recall that the principal frequently paddled students for misbehaving. In a complaint filed with the DOE in April 2009, one parent rushed to the school to stop Brown from taking a paddle to her son’s behind. The reporter described the McKay Scholarship program as: “…a perverse science experiment, using disabled school kids as lab rats and funded by nine figures in taxpayer cash: Dole out millions to anybody calling himself an educator. Don’t regulate curriculum or even visit campuses to see where the money is going. For optimal results, do this in Florida, America’s fraud capital.”

July 21, 2012

Which CEO made $5 million stealing your kid's lunch money?

It turns out that firing a lot of teachers is bad for test scores

firing teachers often is a key part of the charter school method. It keeps teachers desperate, focused, and most importantly cheap. It's also a key part of the education "reform" movement pushed by Bill Gates. And look, it turns out that it is bad for schools and bad for test scores. Study Says Teacher Churn Hurts Student Achievement -- Diane Ravitch's blog
It says that teacher turnover harms student test scores in both mathematics and reading. It says that it harms academic performance most among poor and black students. It says that high rates of teacher churn affect both the students who lose their teachers and even those who didn’t. The researchers are cautious about why this is so, but they think it may have to do with the continual disruption of the school’s community and culture. It is hard to have collegiality and a cohesive staff when staff members come and go in large numbers. Good schools don’t have high attrition among teachers and principals. Good schools are schools that professionals feel part of and want to sustain and improve. Churn is not good for schools. And now we know it is not good for children either. So every time you hear Secretary Duncan laud the “turnaround” model, remember that he is lauding a bad idea. Remember he is saying that the mere act of tossing out the principal and half the staff constitutes “reform.” There may be instances where a school is so bad and so incompetent and so corrupt that a start over is necessary, but those instances are rare. Typically a school with low scores is struggling to meet the needs of children who are poor and don’t speak English; it needs help, not churn-by-design.