The Cigarette Trees and the Lemonade Springs

Rochester’s East High School has been officially declared a failed school. So, just like flies are drawn to shit, or Republican Congressmen are drawn to rent boys, the educational consulting charlatans are swarming around East’s fetid carcass:

School Turnaround, an affiliate of Rennselaerville Institute, specializes in improving failing schools. East’s four-year graduation rate was 33.7 percent for the 2011-2012 school year, according to the State Education Department’s website. Less than 2 percent of East’s students graduated with an advanced Regents diploma that year.

[Former interim city superintendent and successful suburban superintendent] Cala says any plan to rehabilitate East needs to take into account the school’s current reality. Many of East’s students enter ninth grade with low proficiency in math and English, he says, yet they’ll have to pass five Regents exams to graduate.

But Turnaround has promised that, if hired, 100 percent of East’s students will graduate and they will be ready for college. The changes would take place, the organization says, over a couple of years.

And how are these masters of the universe going to accomplish that feat?

Under Turnaround’s proposal, East’s student population would be reduced from about 1,800 students to 1,000. East’s current principal, Anibal Soler, would be replaced with a principal trained in Turnaround’s methods. East’s teachers would have to reapply for their jobs.

Translation: Throw away the kids who aren’t going to graduate, fire any teacher who won’t teach exactly to the test, and where’s my fucking money. It still won’t get them a 100% graduation rate but these grifters will be counting their fat stacks long before that reckoning happens.

The only way a business consulting firm peddling this kind of happy horseshit would get near a corporate boardroom would be if they got lost on the way to the restroom. But in the world of educational reform, these scam artists get a full and serious hearing. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re hired.

89 replies
  1. 1
    Botsplainer says:

    But what about Benghazi?

  2. 2
    Citizen_X says:

    they’ll have to pass five Regents exams to graduate.

    And how will this help them learn math and English?

    That’s my question for any standardized-testing uber alles proposal.

  3. 3
    Glocksman says:

    How about a money back guarantee?

    Heh..I kid myself.

  4. 4
    Schlemizel says:

    I worked as a consultant for 25 years and this sort of happy horse shit is way too common. For 20 of those 25 years I worked for 2 decent companies, one is the best that there has ever been, they had the expertise to deliver as promised & did not play games with clients the other was darn near as good. But that last one was a lampray. It would attach itself to a host, provide little value and suck until the client was dry. I also had the misfortune of having to work with 2 of the biggest names in the consulting business, you can guess. Both constantly provided substandard work delivered by people not qualified for the role but paid a premium. Usually their driving force ws to get more lamprays from their company attached to the host.

    These people should be shot through the lungs & left to die.

  5. 5
    CONGRATULATIONS! says:

    They will be hired. And this:

    Throw away the kids who aren’t going to graduate, fire any teacher who won’t teach exactly to the test, and where’s my fucking money.

    is how it’s done, kids. As any public school teacher can and will tell you, if they could get rid of the students with behavioral problems, mental illness, homeless students and the lazy, they’d have a 100% graduation rate too, and in a good district they’d have 100% college admissions as well. But they can’t.

  6. 6
    Schlemizel says:

    @Glocksman:
    I’d guarantee at least a 45% improvement in pass rates – get rid of 800 out of 1800 and you can hit that easy as long as you get rid of 800 that are not going to pass anyway. Its how many private schools keep test scores so high.

  7. 7
    Sly says:

    The only way a business consulting firm peddling this kind of happy horseshit would get near a corporate boardroom would be if they got lost on the way to the restroom.

    This isn’t remotely true. Turnaround is using the exact same model promulgated by private equity firms; downsize, cut corners, give us our 10%, and we’ll make sure the right people get their golden parachute.

    This isn’t a coincidence. Peruse the Board of Directors of any notable Ed Reform shop, and/or the “non-profits” that fund them, and you’ll find them dominated by vulture capitalists.

  8. 8
    raven says:

    @CONGRATULATIONS!: They are called “pushouts”. Get the seat time money and push them out.

  9. 9
    Bobby B. says:

    College is a chance for a four-year vacation (kind of like the Grand Tour of old) before the kids move back in with their parents and play video games. The term “jobs” will be obsolete by the end of this decade.

  10. 10
    Chris says:

    Neoliberalism and the “everything should be run like a business” cult are fucking destroying this country, have been for thirty years, and there’s no end to it in sight.

  11. 11
    low-tech cyclist says:

    Nothing against you, mistermix, but this reminds me that I haven’t seen Kay’s byline around here in awhile. (Kay used to be the one keeping us abreast of the latest education ‘reform’ grifter news, hence the connection.) Did I miss an announcement that she’s joined a Tibetan monastery or something?

  12. 12
    eric says:

    permanent underclass. that is what they want. that is what they will get. gate their communities and be done with the unwashed.

  13. 13
    raven says:

    @low-tech cyclist: She has been commenting.

  14. 14
    Another Holocene Human says:

    A short history of derp:

    Lead levels in children (scroll down to see 1976 vs 1991): http://www.motherjones.com/env.....k-gasoline

    Composition of US population by age cohort (page 2 table 1): http://www.census.gov/prod/cen.....0br-03.pdf

    Voter participation: https://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/elections/voting-age_population_and_voter_participation.html

    Unlike the first great industrial lead poisoning of US history, that hit factory workers and communities around the factories the hardest, and the rolling lead paint chip scourge of urban areas with older housing stock, the mid-century aerosol lead poisoning hit middle class whites in their suburban aeries. Sure, urban renewal projects over deck highways like Cabrini Green took the worst of it. But nobody was immune from this witting, self-inflicted poisoning of two generations of American youth.

    Gen-Xers were the last lead gasoline babies and have entered their prime voter participation years. Those born before “Ethyl” are dying off quickly now. That the boomers huffed Pb (although they are less reactionary than their immediate cohorts above and below) goes without saying. So the derp will continue.

  15. 15
    LongHairedWeirdo says:

    Oh, come now – they’re not going to fire any teacher who won’t teach to the test. They’ll fire any teacher who’s making too much money – they’ll only rehire those who teach to the test and are cheap enough.

    (Damn, but it’s hard to be cynical enough to keep up with reality.)

  16. 16
    Paul in KY says:

    @LongHairedWeirdo: Good try there!

  17. 17
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Another Holocene Human: How come urban voters aren’t the most reactionary then?

    I find the lead theory interesting in terms of crime, but claiming it effects voting patterns sounds like a stretch.

  18. 18
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @low-tech cyclist:

    Kay comments pretty frequently, but you’re right, I don’t think she’s done a FP post for quite a while. I know she mentioned recently that she’s been pretty busy.

    ETA: Raven got there first.

  19. 19
    Mike G says:

    The only way a business consulting firm peddling this kind of happy horseshit would get near a corporate boardroom would be if they got lost on the way to the restroom.

    I’ve seen worse in the private sector. Never underestimate the craven stupidity of a herd of corporate bureaucrat-MBAs. Stampeding wildebeest make better decisions, and have more ethics and humanity.
    How else would you explain the entire career of an empty suit like Mitt Rmoney?

  20. 20
    Morzer says:

    “Under Turnaround’s proposal, East’s student population would be reduced from about 1,800 students to 1,000. East’s current principal, Anibal Soler, would be replaced with a principal trained in Turnaround’s methods. East’s teachers would have to reapply for their jobs.”

    They aren’t even pretending to have an answer for the problems of almost half the student body. How any honest person with a minimally functioning brain can even contemplate giving these useless scum money is beyond me.

  21. 21
    Kay says:

    @low-tech cyclist:

    No, I’m still here. I read on this almost compulsively so every time I try to write on it I end up with 2000 words and a big convoluted mess. I’m genuinely concerned about losing public schools. I go meetings, donate to the advocates, read their blogs, etc. I went all the way to Texas to listen to them, they had a conference, the public school advocates. I also got myself appointed to our local school committee, so I can, I don’t know, stand guard or something :)

    It’s hard, because if you’re not in it (I have one still in school) you naturally compare it to your own experience in school and to my mind, minimize what’s going on. I don’t have patience with that right now. I cannot respond politely to one more (grown) person who tells me they aced the Iowa Test of Basic Skills so “what’s the big deal”? with the fact that the entire public school experience has been consumed by standardized testing. I watched it happen over ten years. I’m not imagining it. I don’t want to hear that the Gates Foundation or the Broad Foundation are nonprofits. I know that. Nonprofit doesn’t mean “public”. They’re not the same thing.

    This is “testing week” in Ohio, and my youngest plays in the school band. Last night, his band director held a concert where he just let them “play”, as in, loosen up and laugh a lot. They played the instruments but he specifically mentioned testing week and how this was for fun, not a test rally. I know him slightly and I admire him for what is a really defiant act in the current climate. Privatization and what I see as a kind of commercialization is a threat and it’s all sort of coming to a head at the same time.

  22. 22
    Schlemizel says:

    @Morzer:
    And even if you were not getting rid of the bottom 44% if you maintained the staff the pupil to teacher ratio would get a huge boost

  23. 23
    Eric U. says:

    @Mike G: rmoney learned the vulture capitalist scam early on, used someone else’s money to get in the door, and profited. If you have enough money to convince people to trust your stupid scheme, it’s fairly easy to make money by destroying companies. Not sure how this really squares with the often heard legal theory that corporate management’s job is to maximize profits, but nobody is going to jail over it.

    @Morzer: when I first read the top post, I had the naive notion that they were going to school the missing 800 students somewhere else. hahaha, that’s funny

  24. 24
    Punchy says:

    But Turnaround has promised that, if hired, 100 percent of East’s students will graduate

    Wow. Just wow. Anyone that promises 100% of anything should be laughed out the door.

    Can’t fix schools full of poor kids until you fix poverty. Otherwise school just becomes a building they reside in during the day while their parents work 3 jobs.

  25. 25
    srv says:

    I think they need more Microsoft products.

  26. 26
    Fake Irishman says:

    Glad to see that Bill Cala is still fighting the good fight in Rochester. He was a good superintendent at Fairport when I lived in the area. He also gave the State Board of Regents the finger more than once when they couldn’t get their act together. Once they threatened a state takeover of the (very high performing) district when they refused to put a budget before voters without knowing what the State was going to do (it was 90 days late with its budget per usual). He essentially said “No problem, the school board and I will call every TV station in town and have them film the takeover. Come on down any time you like.” The regents backed down.

  27. 27
    danielx says:

    The only way a business consulting firm peddling this kind of happy horseshit would get near a corporate boardroom would be if they got lost on the way to the restroom.

    Sadly, no. Any organization taking on water to the point where graffiti saying “all rats, please don your life jackets” are regularly being scrubbed down in the restrooms will listen to this kind of horseshit, especially if the right corporate officers are promised survival in the form of extremely golden parachutes. IBG-YBG (I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone) will always have proponents as a management and operating philosophy for assholes.

  28. 28
    Roger Moore says:

    The only way a business consulting firm peddling this kind of happy horseshit would get near a corporate boardroom would be if they got lost on the way to the restroom.

    You’re displaying your lack of understanding of how business consulting works; their main job is idea laundering. The CEO decides what actions he wants to take that he would have a hard time selling and tells the consultants when they’re hired. After a decent interval, they come back and tell the CEO to do exactly what he wanted to do all along. Since the idea comes from an “outside” consultant who has received a ton of money, it is much harder for skeptics to criticize. This kind of happy horseshit would make it to the boardroom if it’s what the CEO wants to hear.

  29. 29
    Kay says:

    @Punchy:

    We could graduate 100% too if we lost 20% between freshman and senior year. The gaming encourages everyone to game, so it spreads. Maybe it wasn’t a great idea to set it up as a competition. The adults are acting like assholes, with the winning and all. They’re out of control.

  30. 30
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    I wonder if it has ever occurred to any of these saviors of the poor little children that instead of privatizing failing schools, they might try replicating that which works in the highest performing school districts?

    (hint: it has nothing to do with teachers, or class sizes, etc etc)

  31. 31
    Roger Moore says:

    @low-tech cyclist:

    Did I miss an announcement that she’s joined a Tibetan monastery or something?

    No. She’s apparently just swamped with work. That’s the disadvantage of the economy recovering; less time to goof off at work.

  32. 32
    Paul in KY says:

    @Punchy: Agree. They can’t do that without IDing failing students & expelling them before graduation. Cooking the books is the common term for it.

  33. 33
    Kay says:

    @Roger Moore:

    I have to go to work at 2 (across the street) but this to me is a good letter that pretty much lays out the anger:

    Today, NCLB has been subverted into a name-calling, label-applying bully pulpit.

    He’s pissed and he has a right to be pissed. Enough already with using public schools as national punching bags.

  34. 34
    RSR says:

    We’ve got two friends who teach in RCSD. The whole NY ed reform big of tricks seems to be appearing up there: ‘failing’ schools, charter co-location, leadership that undermines the public system, etc.

  35. 35
    🌷 Martin says:

    @Punchy: I agree, that’s complete bullshit. What they are really saying, if anyone wishes to take the effort to hear the message, is that they will engineer their statistics to show that 100% of students will graduate. And they’ll do that by ‘transferring’ every student that drops out to some other school the day before they drop out. And the best part of that plan is that they can come back in 2 years, show that the other school is failing, and take it over as well, and repeat.

    But Harvard can’t get a 100% graduation rate – and they get to pick their students. No fucking way a public school can get 100%. Here in one of the top school districts in the country, with most kids in middle to high income households, low crime, low drug rates, they are working their ass off to stay above 90%.

  36. 36
    Brendan in NC says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: But, but , but….That costs money!!! And doesn’t guarantee a 100% ROI.

  37. 37
    Kay says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    So this is a district that went in a different direction ten years ago, and had some success. Ask yourself why you don’t hear more about this approach.

    It’s hard and it takes a long time and no one gets famous and the gains are slow.

  38. 38
    Someguy says:

    Most schools I’ve seen are already pretty good at throwing kids away who aren’t likely to graduate. Why do they need to outsource consultants to help with that?

  39. 39
    wenchacha says:

    @Schlemizel: I like your exit interview protocol. In my evil dreams, anyway.

  40. 40
    bemused says:

    Where the heck do 800 students go?

  41. 41
    Morzer says:

    @Roger Moore:

    In my experience, consulting firms exist to give plausible deniability for cutting workers’ compensation, doubling the CEO’s pay check and firing anyone who might have thought that they should be paid a living wage and looked like the word “union” might have crossed their mind.

  42. 42
    Schlemizel says:

    @Kay: @Kay:
    My wife works at an elementary school where 80% of the students get free or reduced lunch & breakfast (moochers!!). Many of the parents do not have transportation & are working multiple part time jobs. There is a very high turnover rate as parents lose apartments or move into and out of homeless shelters so kids are always coming and going. It is a miserable environment to work in. I find I can’t convince some people of how truly awful these kids have it and how they start out at a deficit every day. But over the last 20 years the frequency and length of these ridiculous tests has gotten worse and worse. They are losing weeks of educational time in a high-stakes gamble they are almost sure to lose. That many are not native English speakers just makes the hole even deeper. Teachers now have to spend days and days just teaching to the test so the school won’t “fail”. It is a system that apparently is designed for failure.

  43. 43
    PIGL says:

    @Schlemizel: actually, a shot through the lungs is how bears are dispatched at baiting stations: quick, effective, and no running away. What you mean is “gutshot with a shotgun blast at just the range and calibre for fatality”, like in No Country for Old Men, or maybe Justified. That would give meaning to the part about “being left to die”.

  44. 44
    The Moar You Know says:

    Otherwise school just becomes a building they reside in during the day while their parents work 3 jobs.

    @Punchy: My wife (a teacher) and I both religiously believe this is the end game. Babysitting camp. One “teacher” supervising a thousand students while they sit in front of a monitor and “get educated”.

    The whole “sit a thousand kids in front of the monitor and get educated” is already happening for some subjects, BTW, so don’t think this is something that will happen twenty years from now.

  45. 45
    The Moar You Know says:

    I think they need more Microsoft products.

    @srv: You misspelled “Google”. They are the thousand-pound gorilla in the educational space.

  46. 46
    gene108 says:

    I think there’s a massive blockage of good news in our society.

    To stray a bit off topic, but I heard graduation rates topped 80% for the class of 2012. The highest graduation rate in U.S. history.

    Crime is at a 50 year low.

    Yet people are convinced we’re headed in the wrong direction on every issue.

    I remember hearing a program on NPR about the 80% graduation rate and they basically prefaced the good news with “this means 1/5 students still do not graduate, this is a huge problem”.

    I really think, if folks could suck in the good news they would be more progressive in their voting, because the conservatives are selling fear and loathing and don’t have anything much to offer for social progress.

  47. 47
  48. 48
    Julia Grey says:

    Sorry to hear that East High has come down so far in the world. When I was at Monroe High in the late 60s, East was our big “suburban snot” rival. Kids in walking distance from my home were assigned there and there was mingling back and forth across Culver Road, skating in the winter, the tennis courts, etc. in the park. In fact, my First Time boyfriend was student council president at East in his senior year.

    Sigh. I guess things, y’know, change.

    Has Monroe gone down the tubes, too? We had a couple of days of racial unrest (“rioting!” that was absurdly harmless in retrospect) there in my day, but I don’t think East had the same problems. So strange that what we perceived as the “snottier” school is now the poverty -plagued one.

  49. 49
    Schlemizel says:

    @PIGL:
    Its an old saying from WWI. Hit in the lungs would leave the person alive but with breathing very difficult. The lungs would not inflate properly & eventually fill with blood. it was supposed to be a slow way to go.

  50. 50
    FlyingToaster says:

    @Schlemizel:

    Its how many private schools keep test scores so high.

    Most private schools don’t test at all, or administer the now “old-fashioned” standards like the Iowa Basics. At my daughter’s school, you get pop-quizzes, homework, and projects. No standardized testing whatsoever.

    Private schools can*, however, have the bandwidth to assess the kids daily, get in-school tutoring for kids as needed, address learning disabilities and behavioral problems effectively, and keep kids moving forward. And, yes, remove kids from the classroom if it’s just not working.

    @Kay:

    the fact that the entire public school experience has been consumed by standardized testing.

    I live in a “struggling” school district, and made the decision to opt-out and send WarriorGirl to private school.

    The local school district laid off the music and arts teachers at the K-5 schools to open up enough space for the increased student population; the first grade classes this year are 32 each. The superintendant discontinued allowing private music instruction on-premises after school. And every year is now being administered “practice” exams, to prepare for the 4th, 8th, 10th MCAS exams. So it’s not only “teach to the test”, but worse, “test to the exclusion of teaching”.

    This is after the district closed 4 elementary schools – one sold to an office developer, one sold for elderly housing, one torn down and replaced with a police station, and one housing PK, special needs, and admin. After talking with several teachers and parents of older kids, I came to the conclusion that I could spend money on lawyers to take on the school committee — and probably lose — or I could pay for private school.

    *Note: “can”. When I was investigating private schools before applying, there’s an incredible range of priorities that private schools choose. One I checked out does not accept kids with any known “issues”; as they put it to one of my friends: “We are an academic institution”. Yeeewwww.

    Another does not fail kids. You pay your money for the year, and you pass regardless of whether you learned anything or not.

    Private school is not a panacea. Grifters are just as common there as in the “consultants” to public schools.

  51. 51
    rikyrah says:

    @Kay:
    thank you for always sticking up for public education

  52. 52
    Schlemizel says:

    @gene108:

    My guess is had we hit an 80% grad rate in the mid-aughts NPR would have done an hour long special on the wonderful good news & Fox would have spent at lest a week explaining how Boy Blunder and his Super Friends made it all possible by demanding excellence!

  53. 53
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kay: Nobody wants to face the obvious by asking the simplest and most straightforward questions: Why are all the failing schools in districts full of poor people? Why do schools in affluent districts never fail? One could also ask, Why is it when ever you look at the faces of the children of these failing schools, the vast majority are of color?

  54. 54
    PIGL says:

    @Schlemizel: Ah. Well that’l work just fine.

    It’s only my more atavistic impulses that long for a widespread application of lingering death. As a Marxist, all I care about is that this class of individuals be blocked from further political action. That means taking away their power which is to say their money, and does not in the strictest sense require mass slaughter. Sadly,mass slaughter is what they themselves will engage in, the microsecond any serious political threat emerges.

  55. 55
    cckids says:

    Apropos of the post title, I just drove by the Big Rock Candy Mountain last week. I hadn’t realized it was an actual place.

    I did not see any streams of alcohol tricklin’ down the rocks, though. Alas.

  56. 56
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Schlemizel: As one who has had a collapsed lung, I can say I am not sure if the cure was not worse than the injury.

  57. 57
    Schlemizel says:

    @FlyingToaster:
    One of the local parochial high schools in a Minneapolis suburb ran into a bit of an issue a couple years back. They accepted one student while rejecting his twin with similar academic ability. The chose to reject the one with MS because they just were not set up to deal with that!

    Had the kid been a stellar athlete he would have gotten in even if his grades were not very good. So you begin to see sports as the marketing arm of these schools and the filter is to limit any of the issues public schools are forced to deal with by law.

    I used to bike by another parochial school on my way to work and noticed that the student body was very white with only 3 or 4 black kids in the mix. I happened to end up talking to one of them while waiting for the light to change & asked him what he thought of the school. “It’s ok I guess, it would be nice if there were more kids like me here but there are not that many open places on the football team.” When I asked him about that he told me all the black kids there were on full scholarship and played football and or basketball. I was left with the impression that was the only reason they were there.

  58. 58
    jl says:

    TPM recently had a series on a book about education reform. Some of the commenters criticized the book’s conceptual framework, but I did not have time to read to read those excerpts so have nothing to say about that.

    I did have time to read some of the excerpts that gave case histories of successful reforms in other countries. (Edit: and some of the countries had very successful reforms that produced dramatic improvements in a relatively short time.)

    A common thread, it seemed to me, was collaborative efforts that included respect for input from the front-line teachers all around the country. Why can’t we try that in the U.S.?

    Seems like everything has be top down orders from public and private bureaucrats and self-appointed experts, and take-overs by very sketchy private consultants and companies. The people who actually do the work are treated like the sole source of the problem, or treated like disposable manual labor. How much fail do we have to put up with before we realize that approach does not work?

  59. 59
    burnspbesq says:

    OK, OK, I get that these consultants aren’t briniging anything useful to the party. And I get that my personal experience with a kid who went to one of the handful of spectacularly successful charter schools that actually does exist (Orange County School of the Arts) doesn’t scale.

    Well, continuing to do what manifestly isn’t working doesn’t seem like a very good option, either.

    So, the question for you, mix … a question for which I’m sure you have no answer that can actually be implemented at Rochester East without spending tons of money that we both know isn’t ever going to be available … is “whaddaya got?”

  60. 60
    bemused says:

    @SatanicPanic:

    Sigh. Turnaround should just rename the “education” company Cull The Herd.

  61. 61
    Linnaeus says:

    @jl:

    A common thread, it seemed to me, was collaborative efforts that included respect for input from the front-line teachers all around the country. Why can’t we try that in the U.S.?

    Because, among other reasons, many teachers belong to a certain kind of organization that begins with a “u”.

    Seems like everything has be top down orders from public and private bureaucrats and self-appointed experts, and take-overs by very sketchy private consultants and companies. The people who actually do the work are treated like the sole source of the problem, or treated like disposable manual labor. How much fail do we have to put up with before we realize that approach does not work?

    Depends on how you define “work”. If you mean improving education for the greatest number of students possible, then no, it doesn’t work. If you mean funneling more money and influence to our business class, then this approach works just fine. Ain’t a bug, it’s a feature.

  62. 62
    Calouste says:

    @jl:

    First thing in learning anything from other countries would be admitting that the U!S!A! isn’t the best at everything. You can guess how well that’s going to go over with the section of the population that believes they are living in God’s chosen country.

  63. 63
    Paul in KY says:

    @PIGL: One Consultant, one bullet.

  64. 64
    FlyingToaster says:

    @burnspbesq:

    So, the question for you, mix … a question for which I’m sure you have no answer that can actually be implemented at Rochester East without spending tons of money that we both know isn’t ever going to be available … is “whaddaya got?”

    I’ll dive in.

    Stop the beatings if you want morale to improve. Cease the testing fetish forthwith.

    Get a uni with grad students in education to come and help with the first problem:
    Assess the students you’ve got. Figure out where the fuck they are right this instant.

    Second problem, alas, is the sucker. What will it take to educate the kids you’ve got? How many need IEPs, special services, tutoring, eyeglasses, meals, vaccines, whatever? How many can you track into classroom next week ready to learn, and how many need other problems addressed first?

    Last, where the fuck do you get the resources to address those needs? It can’t all be on the school, but that’s who it’s going to be blamed on.

    Firing the teachers sure as fuck isn’t an answer to anything.

  65. 65
    Schlemizel says:

    @burnspbesq:

    See Mixy – this is so easy! You chronically underfund the school district for years, you ignore the problems caused by poverty and spend 30 years shifting as much wealth to the top 1% as possible. Then, when someone points out that fucking over the school district even more is not a good idea you demand that they explain how THEY will fix the problem without it costing anyone any money.

    Pure genius.

  66. 66
    Larv says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    One could also ask, Why is it when ever you look at the faces of the children of these failing schools, the vast majority are of color?

    I’m pretty sure Charles Murray has an answer to that one. That’s exactly why The Bell Curve was so popular in certain circles; it provided a convenient answer to an inconvenient question.

  67. 67
    opiejeanne says:

    @Punchy: The Hayward School District went bankrupt in 1991 because they had projected 100% attendance for the previous year when presenting their budget needs to the state, because they thought they’d have a 20% increase in enrollment. They thought this because of a supposed increase in the national birthrate 5 or 6 years earlier but they never saw much of an increase in enrollment because the people having babies weren’t moving to Hayward.

    We were looking for a house in the area at the time and our girls were in 4th and 8th grade, and we couldn’t risk their education while the district floundered around so we eneded up buying in a good district nearby. When the state of California takes over your district, and they will if you are in the red, they reduce the curriculum to bare-bones. No foreign language, no music, arts or sports, forget drama class, etc. Even the advanced placement classes go away.

    I had already dealt with this nonsense of applying a national growth model to a district at our previous district, but my school board was attempting to use the same exact set of national numbers and apply them to a neighborhood school! I was on the small neighborhood committee that stopped that nonsense with the help of the local newspaper (we embarrassed them into backing down), but I just about saw red when the realtor tried to tell me it would be fine, the Hayward schools would be fine for our kids. At that point I had 19 years of classroom volunteer work and PTA involvement at the local and state level, as well as quite a bit of experience with realtors with regard to school districts, and I knew better.

  68. 68
    JaneE says:

    I don’t imagine anyone that counts will ask them what graduation rate they would guarantee if they kept all 1800 students. Or where the others are supposed to go.

  69. 69
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @FlyingToaster: I have no idea exactly how Rochester, NY compares with Brockton, MA demographically, but it is a very mixed and not very rich city (home of Marvelous Marvin Hagler) which also happens to have the largest high school in the state and possibly second-largest east of the Mississippi at 4,100 students. The school also happens to be extremely successful due a staff that truly cares and focuses on the basics. There was a long piece a couple of years ago in the NYTimes, I’m sure anyone interested can look it up. But, just as in most other ethnically and economically diverse cities, the problems were not solved by liberal applications of money.

  70. 70
    Roger Moore says:

    @burnspbesq:

    So, the question for you, mix … a question for which I’m sure you have no answer that can actually be implemented at Rochester East without spending tons of money that we both know isn’t ever going to be available … is “whaddaya got?”

    The problem is that there isn’t a magic pixie dust solution. People keep proposing solutions that involve shuffling things around and twiddling around the edges because that’s what can be done without a massive increase in spending, and those approaches don’t accomplish much because the problem is a lack of resources. We need a combination of good pay for the teachers, a low enough student to teacher ratio that the teachers can deal with students as individuals, and a serious attempt to deal with the social problems (e.g. poverty, unstable family lives, gangs) the kids face away from school that prevent them from being able to devote their full attention to learning. We know what would work, but as a society we’re unwilling to do it. Until the willingness is there, we’re just pretending to care about the problem.

  71. 71
    dollared says:

    @burnspbesq: My children’s magnet elementary school in Seattle, which is 700 kids who all test in the top 5% nationally in BOTH reading and math, is a Failed School.

    Because 2 out of 140 4th graders did not pass one part of one 4th grade proficiency test.(you can even guess who they are, right? they are the 180 pt IQ math geniuses from India or Russia that failed some part of the reading test).

    You’re a lawyer, Burnsie? Do you not get how scams work?

  72. 72
    Epicurus says:

    So, “teaching to the test” = “bending the curve.” (Places hands over eyes) Looks good to me!

  73. 73
    gelfling545 says:

    Carl Paladino (remember him? I wish I didn’t) has managed to weasel himself onto our school board & now is trying to weasel a few of his allies into positions by dropping a lot of money in the school board elections. Formerly the biggest expense in those elections was probably filters for the coffee pot. Now: billboards, media ads, what have you, which, of course, their opponents cannot afford, all in an effort to break the union and charterize, privatize, profitize the district. Word is that Paladino owns property that is rented by charter schools. I don’t know this of my own knowledge but that is the the conventional wisdom in town. Things look bleak.

  74. 74
    Kay says:

    @Schlemizel:

    Teachers now have to spend days and days just teaching to the test so the school won’t “fail”. It is a system that apparently is designed for failure.

    Ed reform is a political coalition as much as it’s a method or theory.

    I think they were blindsided by the increasing opposition to standardized testing because of that, they have to hold this coalition together, and there is a very loud group who want “accountability!” (no matter how suspect the measure is) and THAT group were given every accountability measure they demanded, and so it got completely out of control.

    They’ve centered everything on the tests, so now even if they WANT to move in a different direction, they can’t. Take away the reliance on testing and the whole Jenga puzzle falls apart. They can’t grade schools and teachers without standardized testing, so they can’t just pull it out of the center without “ed reform” going with it,

    I wish we’d just stop with the silly number claims. If they’re going to crow about 100% graduation or 100% college acceptance, I want to see the cohort, I want to see how many freshman entered and how many seniors graduated. There’s this insistence that they’re relying on “data” but the “data” is being used to push an agenda, so the whole ”
    data-driven” claim is suspect. This ridiculous insistence that they’re all walking around in lab coats just objectively measuring “units produced” and making apples to apples comparisons is nonsense.

  75. 75
    Jamey says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I’m not sure “have wealthier parents” qualifies as a strategy…

  76. 76
    Kay says:

    @dollared:

    Because you lost your NCLB waiver! That’s why your schools failed. MY God, if they wanted to discredit this measure they couldn’t do a better job.

    It’s ludicrous. They’re freaking out in NY because if 5% of parents opt out of testing the whole “accountability” system falls down. Rather than say, “that’s not a very good system” if parents are in outright revolt, they threaten the school and sternly lecture the parents. They’re slaves to their own process! It’s running us, instead of us running it. I read the statehouse debate on the Third Grade Reading Guarantee in Ohio. They basically went backwards. They thought 10,000 third graders needed remedial reading, so they set the cut score to capture 10,000 third graders. There’s a grifter piece, because the school must offer to pay a private tutor if the third grader doesn’t make the cut score. That’s not “science”. It’s a business plan.

  77. 77
    The Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion says:

    @The Moar You Know: I was asked a year ago to write a paper on where I see public education heading in the next five years. I got an “A”, but the professor told me she was horrified at the dystopian picture I painted. I said that I saw the only remnant of public education remaining would be special education (i.e., the kids no-one else wants). Everyone else will be sitting in private schools or in front of a computer monitor using corporate software.

  78. 78
    Kay says:

    @The Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion:

    I would be more hopeful than that. I got myself appointed to the school commission here. We’re building a new school, so they put together this community group to spend three days talking about what it should be. They hired an edu-consultant and I got a very bad grifter vibe right out of the gate, because he was really pushing ed tech.

    So I’m all ready to fight, I have done some reading and I’m gonna challenge this guy, and I didn’t really have to. There wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm for what he was selling. The local people pretty much sidelined him and started this great cross-talk thing with teachers and we went, as they say, “in a different direction” :)

  79. 79
    The Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion says:

    @Kay: People like you give me hope. On the other hand, I’ve been teaching special ed and “at-risk” students for 21 years. Maybe I’m just jaded, but if the assholes win, this is where we’re headed. And from where I sit, the score is wildly in favor of the assholes, and we are very, very late in the game.

  80. 80
    Kay says:

    @The Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion:

    I agree on “late in the game” and I’m not a teacher so I only see the outside- 21 years is a long time. It feels fluid to me, though, like public opinion could move, now, finally.

    It was nice to watch them very calmly and deliberately take hold of their school planning process and turn to the teachers who work there as the “experts”. We had this great thing happen where the very young foreign language teacher really challenged the “business community” table on the whole “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” theme. She told them what her work was like, and they listened. I think the non-teachers left knowing a lot more than when they entered. I felt a little bad for the “facilitator” at the end, because they had made him extraneous. But, really, that’s a success, if the goal was to get them to run their own deliberate process, which it should have been.

  81. 81
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    in the world of educational reform, these scam artists get a full and serious hearing.

    Because the people making those decisions send their kids to the right schools (private, or have the resources to move to the right districts) and are egged on by people who have literally never set foot in a public school.

    Still, as others have said, it’s actually standard consultancy script: “fire 10% of the staff, cut 10% of the operating budget, and take that as our cut.”

    And no, having lawyers chirp in to say that paying teachers professional wages is unpossible doesn’t really help.

  82. 82
    Kay says:

    @The Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion:

    I think this sort of stuff doesn’t help them:

    A City Council hearing on Tuesday served up the latest volley in a political battle over charter schools, but it may not have been the fight council members were looking for.
    The Education Committee’s hearing on charter school management and accountability was packed except for the people at the center of the controversy.
    Charter school leaders and funders did not show up.
    The City Council cannot compel their testimony because the schools are privately run.

    You can’t be a public school just when you feel like it, or when it’s convenient. Are they publicly-funded private contractors or public schools? They’re going to have to decide.

  83. 83
    Pogonip says:

    @Kay: Hi Kay, how do you expect all this to end when it does come to a head?

    I work with the mother of a 3rd-grader who tells me how frantic the teachers are, because half the kids in the school speak little or no English, the language in which the test is written. So the teachers are trying to teach enough English to get the required score on the test, leaving them with little time to teach my colleague’s daughter, who is fluent in English, anything else.

    Also, the other night the kid brought home a (printed) note: “Please don’t let Susie write in cursive.”. What’s up with that?

  84. 84
    Exurban Mom says:

    I’ll bite.
    First, you need some social workers to assess who is in unstable home situations, who needs food aid, who is getting their ass kicked around at home, and get them help.
    Then, assessment to see what areas each kid struggles with academicAlly. Once you have a decent idea of ability levels, you can devise curriculum plans for the kids.
    This requires more of those expensive staff members, don’t you know. And smaller class sizes. The deal is the same as always. Pay now or pay later.

  85. 85
    Kay says:

    @Pogonip:

    I don’t know what the cursive thing is about. I think it’s Glenn Beck, although I thought he was pro-cursive. I don’t know any anti-cursive people :)

    I think it’s shifting, fluid. First Bill Gates did a non-apology for too much testing, where he said there was too much and then blamed public schools, and then Michelle Rhee did the same thing. So they’re responding to what they must feel is blowback.

    I think the fundamental question will be do we value publicly-run schools, or is that just something we’ll give up? What do we value about them? That they’re local and public, or would we trade “local and public” for privately-run in return for “choice” of school? We don’t know what a privately-run system would actually look like as far as equity or quality, so are we willing to just jump off the privatization cliff? I really do think it comes down to how much we value public schools as a public institution or entity. If the answer is “not much” then we’ll lose them.

    I think we’d end up deeply regretting the decision to privatize, which is why I’m so involved in it. I don’t “think” we’ll regret it. I know we’ll regret it. We don’t have any other universal publicly-run systems, and if we lose this one, we’ll never get it back. Privatization has been a disaster in Chile and Sweden, and it will be a disaster here too.

  86. 86
    Pogonip says:

    @Kay: Privatization is always a disaster. Look at the Department of Defense. You’d think voters would learn.

  87. 87
    Kay says:

    @Pogonip:

    There are three decisions, one of out of Ohio, another in CA and one out of the NLRB that designate charters as government contractors. So that’s lawyers, right, we have to categorize, we’re not the most creative people in the world, but how are they NOT contractors? I think I have to agree with the NLRB. Walks like a duck, etc.

    Ohio media now refers to them as “privately-run” and I just think that’s an accurate use of plain language. They are privately run, and that’s different than “public” even if nonprofit. Not an unimportant distinction, don’t you think? Might want to give some thought to “privately-run” v “public” before we go all-in here.

    The funniest part of the Sweden blow-back is how the Greens apologized for backing privatization. Can you imagine a US political party apologizing to the public for backing a bad idea? Never happen. Not in a million years. The Greens would like the people of Sweden to accept their apology. “Apology accepted, Greens!”

  88. 88
    Morzer says:

    @gelfling545:

    Carl “bestiality porn is what my social circle gets off on” Paladino? That Carl Paladino?

  89. 89
    mellowjohn says:

    @Exurban Mom:
    “First, you need some social workers to assess who is in unstable home situations, who needs food aid, who is getting their ass kicked around at home, and get them help.”

    1,2, and 3 are pretty obvious to even the most dimly aware staff member. #4 is what’s almost never, ever gonna happen. costs too much money, y’know.

    (and a speak as a special ed teacher of moderately cognitively disabled 7th and 8th graders in a school on chicago’s scenic west side. we’re 95+% A-A and 95+% below poverty level.)

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