Yesterday, the California Charter Schools Association caused a stir. The pro-charter group came out with a list of 10 independently-run schools it deemed underperforming — and encouraged their respective school districts to close them when their 5-year contracts expire!
That list included West County Community High in Richmond, as my colleague Hannah Dreier reported in today’s paper. Leadership High in San Francisco was also on it.
The complete list included 31 schools, but the association only published the names of those that are nearing the end of their 5-year terms and seeking a charter renewal.
Here’s the reasoning behind the mov, from the news release:
“We cannot have an honest discussion about education reform and increasing accountability without closing the charters that have demonstrated an inability to meet the challenge of excellence–granted to us by law–and chronically underperform. Our accountability framework has been pressure tested, analyzed and deliberated thoroughly. The time to act on persistently low-performing schools is now, because our children’s education cannot be put on the back-burner,” said Myrna Castrejón, senior vice president, Achievement and Performance Management, CCSA.
The “call for non-renewal” was criticized by another state charter group, the Charter Schools Development Center. The center put out a statement today, noting flaws in California’s testing system and arguing that renewal decisions should not be purely based on test scores.
What do you make of all this?
To meet the association’s minimum standard, a school needs to have one of these three things (copied directly from the news release):
Academic Performance Index (API) score of at least 700 in most recent year
3-year cumulative API growth of at least 50 points (2010-11 growth + 2009-10 growth + 2008-09 growth)
Within range of or exceeding predicted performance based on similar student populations statewide, for at least two out of the last three years, based on CCSA’s metric, the Similar Students Measure.
Laura Kretschmar, a newly National Board-certified teacher who teaches math and science at Lighthouse Community Charter School in East Oakland, spoke at a White House forum about the teaching profession this week with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Also there is Dan Brown, whose book (“The Great Expectations School”) I just finished reading.
Check out the video here. Laura’s the second person in from the left. She starts speaking around 39 minutes.
The Oakland school district is closing five elementary schools next year. Two of its other schools might be converted into independently run charters, taking 800 children with them. And at least one — quite possibly, two — brand new charter schools open next fall, with plans to admit more than 600 students, combined.
But OUSD’s leaders aren’t bracing for a big enrollment drop. They predict the school system’s enrollment will hold firm in September — and even grow slightly (by 125 students, to 38,166).
Will the numbers bear out? They didn’t this fall. Enrollment in the city’s district-run schools, though flat, came in 300 students shy of projections, creating a $1.6 million budget gap that needed to be closed immediately.
Teachers from two East Oakland elementary schools are on a mission to shake up the status quo in the Oakland school district.
This fall, they voted to turn their schools — ASCEND and Learning Without Limits – into independently run charters so that they could have more control over staffing, curriculum, budgeting and other things, such as the school calendar. Hearings on those charter conversion petitions and others begin at 6 p.m. Monday evening in the district office at 1025 Second Avenue.
But the teachers at these two schools have goals beyond charter conversion. They want to organize like-minded educators around some of their ideas, such as changing the way teachers are evaluated. They also want to do away with a layoff system driven almost entirely by credential and years of service in a district (though they’re not against including seniority as a factor). They, like the union’s current leaders, think teachers should have more say in what materials they use to teach children.
The Oakland school board holds a special meeting Nov. 21 to hear eight pending charter petitions — three district schools that would secede from OUSD and run independently; one new school and four existing charters that are up for renewal (KIPP Bridge, Civicorps, ARISE High School and Aspire’s Lionel Wilson College Prep).
NOTE: This is a public hearing only — no decisions are scheduled.
You can find the schedule here, and I’ve pasted it below. All of the petitions are posted online, if you want to take a look.
As I reported last month, teachers at East Oakland’s ASCEND and Learning Without Limits elementary schools voted to break away from the district and apply for a conversion charter. The leaders and staff of the new small schools say they’ve watched the erosion of the conditions their schools were promised when they opened — namely, control over curriculum, staffing and budget.
Their concerns came to a head last spring, when many of their teachers, low on the OUSD seniority chain, received a layoff warning or termination notice. The district issued hundreds of those notices, and ended up rescinding most of them.
Parents from nearby Lazear Elementary, which is slated for closure in 2012, have — as promised — submitted a charter petition as well. Read the rest of this entry »
For that reason, I can’t tell you definitively whether an unauthorized elementary charter school will open on American Indian’s downtown campus on Halloween, as rumored — though it’s looking unlikely. I’ll just share the information I’ve collected so far.
Evidence that suggests a school affiliated with American Indian is (or at least was) slated to open two months into the school year:
- I called the receptionist at the school last week, told her I was a news reporter, and asked if American Indian was opening a new elementary school in October, as I had heard. She said, “Yes it is.”
- An OUSD mother who attended a recent informational meeting at American Indian said parents were told that a new elementary school would indeed open on Oct. 31. Read the rest of this entry »
On Wednesday night at Oakland Technical High School, the Oakland school board votes on a staff resolution to close five elementary schools, Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe. But the board is expected to be presented with another downsizing proposal, too: The faculties at two other schools, ASCEND and Learning Without Limits, have voted to secede from OUSD and operate those schools as independently run charters.
You can read more about it here. That story will be in Tuesday’s Tribune. (And here is a link to a Sunday story about school closures.)
Although its petition was rejected by the Oakland school board, a charter school named Urban Montessori will open in Oakland next year, after all.
The Alameda County Board of Education approved the group’s appeal this week, according to the group’s blog.
Urban Montessori will begin its first year with grades k-2 and grow into a k-8. It doesn’t have a location yet, but its founders are looking for a place in downtown Oakland, close to public transit, said Hae-Sin Kim Thomas, a member of the founding team — and a former OUSD teacher, principal and administrator.
Some Oakland school board members, including Jody London, had hoped to convince Urban Montessori to open as a district school, rather than as an independently-run charter.
The families at East Oakland’s Lazear Elementary School have come to a decision, says parent leader Olga Galaviz Gonzalez: If the Oakland school board votes to close it next year, as Superintendent Tony Smith has recommended, they will try to reopen it as a public, independently-run charter school.
“We’ve been working on it,” Gonzalez said about the charter school petition.
Lazear’s school board representative, Noel Gallo, says he opposes the closure and that he is no longer interested in selling the property. He says that if the board votes to close the school on Oct. 26, he would support the charter petition.
I wrote about Lazear in the spring of 2010, when the parents went out on strike, unhappy with the principal and one teacher in particular. I revisited the school a year later — in April –and found a much happier, academically-focused place.
Now, Lazear is on a list of five elementary schools slated for closure, along with Lakeview, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe. Its state test scores, though lower than neighboring schools, rose 27 points to 714.
“That school has turned around, and now we want to close it,” Gallo said.
People who follow education news in California probably have heard of the new law known as the “Parent Trigger.” It allows parents to unionize — and to petition to convert eligible low-performing schools into charters or force major staffing shake-ups, among other interventions.
It was enacted in January 2010, but it wasn’t until this summer that the California Board of Education approved regulations to clarify how it will work.
Parent Revolution, the L.A.-based group behind the law, stopped in Oakland this week on a bus tour through California. Nearly all who came to the information session at Brookfield Elementary School were either part of the bus tour or members of the Oakland chapter of the NAACP, invited by Oakland school board member Alice Spearman. I noticed that only a handful of current OUSD parents (maybe just two or three) were in the room to learn about a movement described by organizer Shirley Ford as “grassroots in every sense of the word.”
That appears to have been by design. Spearman told the small group that she wanted to start with “all the key players in Oakland” to decide whether to form a parent union chapter here. If so, she said, they could bring other groups and “the grassroots parents” into the discussion.