Florida KIPP still looking for traction

One of the most celebrated charter school outfits in the country has yet to hit its stride in Florida. The KIPP Impact Middle School in Jacksonville saw its school grade fall from a B to a C this year, and it was spared from sliding further by a state “safety net.”

Tom Majdanics

Tom Majdanics

Still, organizers are optimistic that great things are still to come.

“There is a sort of tortoise and hare component to this work,’’ said KIPP Jacksonville Executive Director Tom Majdanics. “We realize we certainly have a lot more work to do, but we’re still in the early innings.’’

KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools are nationally renowned for focusing on high-poverty students and setting the bar high for academic success. When the Jacksonville KIPP opened in 2010 to 80 fifth-graders – a model favored by KIPP – U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan cut the ribbon.

“I want every child in the country to have these kinds of opportunities, where there are such high expectations, where there’s a college going culture from day one,’’ he said at the time.

In 2010, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan cut the grand-opening ribbon at KIPP Impact Middle School.

In 2010, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan cut the grand-opening ribbon at KIPP Impact Middle School in Jacksonville, Fla.

Despite the high hopes, the school ended its first year with an F. The next year, it rebounded to a B, with progress fueled in large part by big learning gains for sixth-graders in reading and math. But even with those sixth-graders moving on to seventh-grade last year, KIPP fell to a C.

The school would have earned a D without a provision the state Board of Education passed in July to keep schools from falling more than one letter grade. Gary Chartrand, BOE chairman, is a member of the KIPP Impact board of director and helped bring the school to Florida.

The cushion affected hundreds of schools, with district schools benefitting at a higher rate than charters.

“We still made gains, but not as eye-popping as the year before,’’ said Majdanics, who noted a few factors that influenced the grade.

Because KIPP Impact didn’t have eighth-graders last year, school grading rules required it be given the average writing score for the school district it’s located in – and Majdanics suggested KIPP would have scored higher. The school also didn’t have the opportunity to earn extra points, like other middle schools did, by enrolling eighth-graders in Algebra I.

“That would have been a healthy boost to our grade’’ and landed the school a solid C without the safety net, Majdanics said.

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Florida schools roundup: Gov. Scott, virtual ed, teacher raises & more

Gov. Scott: The Florida governor isn’t the education cheerleader he portrays himself to be, editorializes the Tampa Bay Times.

florida-roundup-logoVirtual ed: Online schools and programs brace for a major enrollment boom now that the state wants every high schooler to take an online class to graduate. Sun Sentinel.

Common Core: This is supposed to be the final year of FCATs, but now Florida’s public schools are in limbo. TC Palm. Florida reacts to mounting opposition. The Tampa Tribune. Foundation For Excellence In Education’s Patricia Levesque explains why we can’t transform American public education with silver-bullet thinking. Dropout Nation. “The standards, fewer in number, exchange quantity for quality, which means I’ll have more time to delve into each standard with my students,” writes Polk County elementary literacy teacher Beth Smith for The Ledger.

Teacher raises: Educators have long since abandoned the simple notion of an across-the-board $2,500 pay bump Scott once promoted in news conferences across the state. Tampa Bay Times. Pinellas County could raise teachers’ starting salaries to $40,000. Tampa Bay Times.

Grad rates: PolitiFact Florida takes aim at interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart’s boasts about the state’s graduation improvements. Tampa Bay Times.

Parent tack: The Hillsborough County school district hosts a Saturday workshop for parents to learn more about the school system. Tampa Bay Times. Duval County schools introduces Parent Academy to get mom and dad more involved. Florida Times-Union. “We need parents to trust teachers and believe we’re playing on the same team to enhance student behavior and improve achievement,” writes Terri Friedlander for Florida Today.

Enrollment: Manatee County public schools have 1,000 more students than expected. Bradenton Herald.

Charter schools: Hernando County’s two new charter schools gear up for their first school year. Tampa Bay Times. Hillsborough County school officials eye charter schools and their system of fees and donations. Tampa Bay Times. The Manatee County School Board prepares to vote on three charter school applications. Bradenton Herald.

Private schools: Sarasota County sees the opening of a new high school for students with disabilities. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

More choice: Pinellas County’s East Lake High offers students new academic programs in cyber security, accounting, biomedicine and performing arts. Tampa Bay Times.

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redefinED roundup: Louisiana vouchers under fire, charter school performance in Tennessee, Florida Virtual cuts & more

MondayRoundUp_goldAlabama: The Rev. H.K. Matthews, a civil rights icon now living in Alabama, says school choice is an extension of the civil rights movement (AI.com).

Colorado: The Douglas County School District offers private school vouchers for students but some residents, policymakers and journalists can’t see anything but conspiracy theories (Our Lone Tree News). Fifteen new charter schools open statewide for the 2013-14 school year (The Gazette).

Connecticut: State Superintendent of Schools William McKersie wants public school choice and more digital learning for students (Greenwich Post).

Florida: Education leaders urge the governor to overhaul the school grading system again (which also applies to charter schools) (Tampa Bay Times). Florida Virtual School is facing hard times as program revenue drops 20 percent (Education Week). Charter schools are under scrutiny from the Department of Education after a ban on charging additional fees and requiring volunteer hours from parents (Tampa Bay Times).

Louisiana: The U.S. Department of Justice files suit to block the state’s new school choice program, arguing it violates court ordered desegregation (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Advocate). The Black Alliance for Educational Options and Gov. Bobby Jindal both say the scholarship program provides a vehicle for low-income students to escape failing schools and that the Justice Department should drop the lawsuit (Education Week, Huffington Post, Weekly Standard). The Washington Post editorial board calls the DOJ lawsuit “appalling” (Washington Post). “Course choice” is underway in Louisiana (Education Week).

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Happy Labor Day!

laborday5Like most of you, we are out enjoying the holiday! Don’t labor too hard this Labor Day and stay safe! See you back here tomorrow.


More Florida charter schools with deficits, but …

A new report finds more Florida charter schools operating in the red, but it’s not necessarily a sign they’re in trouble.

Released this month, the annual report from the Florida Auditor General shows 12 percent of the 499 charter schools reviewed in the audit ended the 2012 fiscal year with a deficit, up from six percent of 445 schools the previous year.

The bulk of charter schools flagged were in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, which have the largest number of charters in the state. In Broward, 17 of 73 charters closed the year with a deficit. In Miami-Dade, it was 16 of 109 charters.

“It certainly is something we are aware of and paying attention to,’’ said Adam Miller, who oversees charters and school choice for the Florida Department of Education.

But the report looked at a particularly difficult year for both charter and traditional public schools, Miller noted. Lawmakers slashed $1 billion from the education budget in 2011, significantly reducing per-student funding and other dollars to charters and traditional public schools.

Another factor: a third of the charters audited were less than three years old. That’s important to note, Miller said, because new charters take some time to build reserves. They don’t receive as much public funding as district schools. And since most of them don’t get facilities funding, they have to dip into operation dollars to pay for buildings and other capital needs. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Common Core, Scott and Bush, Rowlett magnet & more

Common Core: Rep. Debbie Mayfield of St. Lucie County files a bill that would put the Common Core standards on hold. StateImpact Florida. More from TC Palm.

florida-roundup-logoMeet up: Gov. Rick Scott meets privately in Miami with former Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. John Thrasher and Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand to talk about the future of Florida’s schools. Times/Herald. Why Scott’s meeting with the two men has the potential to cause headaches for the current governor. The Buzz.

Cheating probe: A Miami Norland Senior High School program through which hundreds of students have earned state industry certifications has been tainted by cheating, according to the Miami-Dade Office of the Inspector General. Miami Herald.

Academic targets: Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti feels closer to persuading the school board to accept his goal to bring next year’s student achievement data to the state average. Florida Times-Union.

Rowlett Magnet: Manatee County schools Superintendent Rick Mills plans to recommend approval of the district’s Rowlett Magnet Elementary application to become a charter school. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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NEPC takes a U-turn on CREDO charter schools study

uturn signLast week Diane Ravitch warned her readers not to trust the findings of the latest Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) report highlighting student achievement in charter schools. To make her case, she cited a review of the CREDO study written by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC). Diane Ravitch citing NEPC struck me as humorous for a very good reason.

As the CREDO study results changed direction in favor of charter schools, both Ravitch and NECP took a u-turn of their own.

Now there is nothing wrong with changing your mind. In fact, I applaud people who review research and reassess their previous held beliefs, because it takes considerable courage to change your mind or admit you were wrong. However, the CREDO research methods didn’t change and neither did the concerns raised by NEPC. The only thing that did change was the CREDO results, and it no longer supported Ravitch’s or NEPC’s professional opinion.

Back in 2009, the CREDO report concluded, “Despite promising results in a number of states and within certain subgroups, the overall findings of this report indicate a disturbing — and far reaching — subset of poorly performing charter schools.”

When Ravitch accepted the National Education Association’s “Friend of Education” award in 2010, she cited CREDO findings stating, “five out of six charters will get no different results or worse results than the regular public schools.” Ravitch was still highlighting CREDO findings as late as the summer of 2011, but today she attacks CREDO as part of a corporate education reform plot to privatize education.

Like Ravitch, the NEPC had nice things to say about CREDO back in 2009. Despite very little change in NEPC’s own concerns, or even in the CREDO methodology, the organization’s opinion turned decidedly negative in 2013 when the CREDO results shifted in favor of charter schools. Continue Reading →


The unrealized dream of educational justice



Editor’s note: This is the fourth and final post in our series commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Dr. Vernard Gant is director of Urban School Services with the Association of Christian Schools International.

As the nation marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, speculation abounds as to what the content of that speech would be if delivered today. It is noteworthy that in all of his speeches and writings, Dr. King had little to say about education beyond segregated schools and low performance by black students. He apparently thought that once the racial barriers of discrimination and social injustices were removed, educational disparities would self-correct. It would not be much of a stretch to suggest he would be appalled to discover that according to the latest NAEP report, black children in 2011 are still not performing in reading at the level of white children in 1970 (just two years after his death).MLK snipped

Here’s my take on what his reaction would be, a slight variation on the words from his speech: It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro [children] a bad check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of [educational] justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of [educational] opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of [educational] freedom and the security of [educational] justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. [Brackets mine]

Just as in the days of the civil rights movement, a grave injustice is transpiring today that is adversely and profoundly impacting its victims. A quality education, essential for cashing the promissory note that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, is being systematically denied families that do not have the economic means to secure one for their children.

A quality education is a purchased commodity. It depends on the financial wherewithal of individual families. It can be purchased either by paying tuition to private schools, or by paying higher mortgages and property taxes in neighborhoods with high-performing public schools. Parents who have low and moderate incomes simply do not possess the financial means to secure such an education for their children. They are bound to accept what is offered in schools assigned on the basis of where they live. They have no choice and no freedom in their children’s education. To compound matters, they are often told, from the public’s standpoint, that they should never have a choice because if they did, it would financially cripple the public school system. Translation: the important thing is not the best interest or well-being of the child, but the best interest and well-being of the system.

To add insult to injury, parents are told this by opponents of school choice and educational justice, all of whom exercise choice in where their children go to school. As a general rule, people of means naturally send their children to schools that effectively educate them. No caring parent (no matter how dedicated to a cause) would put their child in a school and sacrifice his or her education on an altar they know would fail their child. The tragedy is in the hypocrisy; what these individuals practice personally (school choice for their own children), they oppose politically for other folks’ children. They act in the best interest of their children, but insist the children of less economically advantaged families remain bound to a system that does not benefit them but rather benefits from them.

What is needed today and what Dr. King would call for is educational justice. Continue Reading →