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Teacher anger?

by Guest blogger on Mar 08 2012 Posted in Community voices

Earlier this week on Metropolis, Tom Ferrick wrote about comments he read on the Notebook blog. We're republishing his piece as a guest blog post. Teacher unhappiness is a national trend. The newest MetLife teacher survey, released earlier this week, showed that "in the past two years there has been a significant decline in teachers' satisfaction with their profession," decreasing 15 points since the survey two years before.


Charter schools are a fraud. The leadership at school district headquarters is clueless. Powerful interests are combining to ruin public education in this country. Teachers are being made scapegoats for the failure of urban schools.

So say Philadelphia's public school teachers, as they fill the comments section on on the website of the Philadelphia Public [School] Notebook.

The Notebook offers straight forward and well-reported accounts of doings in the district, but I also always make it a point to read the comments section below each story. There you will find a lot of passionate, often angry, words about the state of the public schools.

There are parents who sometimes add their two cents at the end of a story, but the majority of commenters are teachers.  Though most post anonymously or use aliases (youngphillyteacher, Science Teacher, Tom-104, etc.), it is clear they are knowledgeable about the workings of the district and they often identify themselves as teachers.

Looking through the last four months of comments reveals the Philly teachers' state of mind -- at least among those who take the time to write. 

For starters, they are pissed. And they have reason to be. Public schools teachers have been hammered by layoffs, budget cuts, a dysfunctional and dictatorial front office during the reign of Queen Arlene, as Arlene Ackerman is almost always called.

They feel beset by the outside world; are not reluctant to defend themselves and, on occasion, they will whine about their fate in life.

To quote one anonymous comment posted last week"There is a lot of teacher bullying going on. I don't understand why there is such a sudden attack on teachers. I feel that going on. I feel that I've done everything, going above and beyond to help my students. I feel disrespected on a daily basis."

They loath charter schools. At best, they see them as educational frauds, which cream off good public school students and send bad ones back to the public schools. They do not believe data that shows some charters out perform public schools. In their worst moments, they see charters as part of a vast conspiracy to privatize education to benefit corporations that operate charter schools.

To quote another anonymous comment in a January post"Education is now very big business, as in the charter fraud. If we're not careful, the corporations -- which is exactly what charters are -- will take over the inner cities which will be the end of hope for the have nots. This is one of those times in history where a decision will be felt for generations. Which way America????"

Their displeasure does not end there. Many commenters are also unhappy with Mayor Nutter and President Obama, whom they believe are playing into the hands of anti-public education forces.Almost universally, they despise Ackerman, the former superintendent, but they have no particular regard for her successors or her predecessors, for that matter. They are not enamored of the leadership of their own union, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and PFT President Jerry Jordan. "The war on the teacher's union continues," said one anonymous poster last month."It will continue until Jordan grows a pair and calls for a strike."

Finally, they do not like No Child Left Behind, nor the great emphasis put on standardized testing these days. Come to think of it, at least among these posters, the list of things they do not like is a long one.

As one anonymous poster put it last month: "We can't have it both ways folks. We hate the tests, hate the administration, hate the pressure, hate the walkthroughs, hate the corrective. The increased results of the tests over the last years have been used to justify the programs and policies we all hate. Now we have a movement to uncover the inflation of the scores and we hate that, too. To top it off some of us can't even acknowledge an opposing viewpoint and attack teachers when we hate that teachers are blamed for everything...."

Two things about the comments:

One. They are generally a cut above the comments you see on websites. The posters are articulate and often provide useful information about what is going on in the schools. Two. They may not accurately represent the feelings of the majority of teachers -- often its the angry who take the time to type in a comment.

But, they also reveal how out of touch teachers are with the realities of today's educational landscape. There will be no rolling back of the requirement of testing. Charters are popular with parents (witness the 30,000 wait list in Philadelphia) and no one is going undo that reform. Teachers are not held in the esteem they once were -- but neither are doctors, journalists, politicians and clergy.

Times have changed. Accountability is here to stay. Diversity of educational offerings is destined to grow, not shrink. Urban education is now and always will be underfunded.

Wouldn't it be wiser to adapt to these new realities, instead of trying to wish them away?

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Comments (31)

Submitted by Erika Owens on Thu, 03/08/2012 - 16:03.

This post sparked some discussion on the Metropolis site and we wanted to create a space here as well for constructive conversation and  reaction to Ferrick's take.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on Thu, 03/08/2012 - 17:05.

I don't think teachers are out of touch. I think Tom Ferrick, like many others, is out of the loop. We're in the trenches, actually observing the effects of the decisions made for us by non-educators. Just because more people are deluded into thinking "Charter School" means better, doesn't mean those who understand how things really are are out of touch.

"Adapting" to Ferrick's so-called "realities" is tantamount to surrendering the hope of offering children a quality education.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/08/2012 - 17:07.

Making assumptions about the identity of people based on anonymous internet commenting is good journalism... right Tom?

--Anonymous, President of Guam and its Continental Territories

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/08/2012 - 17:09.

Tom Ferrick apparently doesn't get it. Teachers used to be creative (my first year of teaching comes to mind - 2003). Today, our hands are bound unless you teach an elective course. Everything is scripted in a certain sense. Some courses are literally scripted, while others have a "strict" timeline that needs to be followed.

Doctors are still held in high regards as are many professionals, but for those that are disrespected, does that mean that we cannot seek change? Also, testing does not take into account learning disabilities, the economically disadvantaged, and so forth. If the test has no meaning for them (if they fail the test, it does not prevent them from moving on to the next grade), they do not try their hardest.

I had one student this year (a Senior), who said that he tried to make a pattern (artwork) out of his answers because he knew it would not prevent him from graduating. This is what we are working against. Students who are tested in excessive (abusively, if I may) are wiped out after three or four days of three hour tests, do not care how well they do. They feel mentally abused. That is not accountability for teachers, that is, quite literally, torture for these students. Outsiders very rarely understand.

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on Thu, 03/08/2012 - 17:23.

 Tom Ferrick, dating back to his days at the Inquirer, has been a long time fan of market based school reform so his comments come are hardly surprising.   His choice of comments serves to paint teachers as cranks who are out of touch with reality.   While Ferrick's views may well represent the thinking of those who currently run the education establishment, he ignores that there is a growing backlash against these policies that includes parents, former policy makers  like Diane Ravitch as well as teachers and their unions.  Particularly in the traditionally underserved, urban school communities there is a growing sense that these reforms do not serve them.

The notion that public education is being dominated by corporate interests is not some paranoid conspiracy but is very much evident in the governance of city schools, the role of hedge funds and foundations, the proliferation of Turnaround companies, the role of corporate sponsored groups like Teach For America, etc.

Ferrick urges us to adapt to the new realities, accepting underfunding, overtesting and privatization as immutable.   The draconian budget cuts, the drill and kill curriculum, the cheating scandals, the evidence of widespread corruption and cronyism in charter schools and the rising tide of teacher bashing are just minor blemishes in what, for him, is a rosy picture.   

Incidentally, Tom, many of us are not sitting around "wishing away" these realities, but organizing for public schools that are democratically controlled, adequately fudning and meet the needs of all children

Submitted by Teach Steve (not verified) on Thu, 03/08/2012 - 17:27.

Tom, thanks for the post. I think your conclusion misunderstands the complaints of teachers. We know parents want a better school environment and they see charter as a way to obtain that. We want to provide all children with a better school environment, not just students who can get into charters. I think we all know that in bad neighborhoods the neighborhood schools are broken. The charters take away the most productive students attempting to escape violence and classroom disruptions and the teachers are left with fewer resources to control the remaining students.I believe in choice within the public system. We need more special select schools that the best and brightest can apply to. We need a better way to deal with problem children who disrupt the class and make learning more difficult for all.

The reason we can't achieve my goal is because all of the legal mandates are placed on the public schools and not on those with which we compete. My neighborhood school must take all students within the catchment and we have a limited set of tools to deal with discipline problems. (Thankfully I have a good principal, not everyone does.) Charter schools can completely remove problem children from their system. As the cases going through the courts show their power is not unlimited but it is far more robust than mine is. Charter principals gets to make their staff. Technically, so do district principals through site selection but over the last few years with budget constraints we've had forced placement which hurts principal-teacher rapport and teacher buy-in. Charter schools also have more power in selecting their students. If I could select my class my class would perform better. But if the goal really is to help our lowest performing students moving resources away from the institutions that help them. And, sadly, I will be one of the few to admit this but we do have bad teachers who need to be fired. Everyone knows who they are and everyone in the school feels the problems when they fail to control their students.

I also don't think anyone believes that a system of only SRC-chartered schools and no District would perform, as a whole, better than the SDP does now. It's not that some charters aren't a cut above the rest (Independence), it's that if your goal is to improve the whole system you can't do that through selection-bias.

So the problem isn't that public education can't work. It's that legal mandates and political selection of superintendents have weakened the system and made charters look like the only way to solve the problem. They aren't. With good leadership and a more sensible legal environment we can provide better services for all students. We just need to be given the chance on an even playing field.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/08/2012 - 17:34.

I'm flattered I was quoted

Submitted by tom-104 on Thu, 03/08/2012 - 21:21.

Tom Ferrick says public school teachers should "adapt to these new realities". Many of us believe to "adapt" to the reality he speaks of means to give up what is left of our democracy. For 150 years public schools have been the bedrock of our democracy. It is where children of diverse backgrounds come together to get the skills needed for our society, but also to learn about each other and build a community despite our diversity. Since Brown vs. Board of Education public schools have also offered the hope of EVERYONE being offered an equal chance to succeed from the beginning of life.

The charter school movement lead by billionaire "reformers" with no experience in education, is about business. It is a new market for them to exploit. They see the student as a commodity and the parent as a customer.

On what does Mr. Ferrick base his faith in charter schools? The rigorous transparency and reporting done by public schools is not required of charter schools. Attempts for more transparency are fought by charter owners as can be seen in the court case of Chester Community Charter School against the Inquirer’s attempt to see their financial records. http://tinyurl.com/8xftv3c

The early signs are that charters performance is by and large not very different from public schools. According to statistics obtained from the PA Department of Education website by the blog Chalk and Talk, only 79 of PA’s 142 charters made AYP in 2011 and only 40 out of Philadelphia’s 73 charters made AYP in 2011. http://tinyurl.com/7vwpqav

In an excellent article in Wednesday’s Washington Post, educator Diane Ravitch detailed how New Orleans has been used as a laboratory for establishing a charter based urban school system. A year after Hurricane Katrina, Secretary of Eduction Arne Duncan said Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that ever happened to New Orleans.” This was because it gave the “reformers” the chance to make 90% of New Orleans public schools charters. Yet, the state now rates New Orleans as next to last in Louisiana’s 72 school districts. The state education department rated 79 percent of the charters in the Recovery School District as D or F. http://tinyurl.com/72s2uve

The bottom line is that politicians aligned with the American Legislative Exchange Council ( http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/07/14-12 ) are using charters to lower the living standards of school employees. For decades right-wing politicians have claimed that putting money into Philadelphia public schools is a “waste of money.” They continue to starve the public schools of funds and then blame the teachers for not getting results when the schools must operate with shortages of materials and class sizes that no politician would tolerate for their child. The only reform charters offer is unregulated schools with teachers who are paid less than in the past so CEO’s of charters can be paid $300,000 and more per year and company’s that own the charter can make a profit.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/08/2012 - 21:40.

Mr. Ferris is a twit like the rest of them. He needs to do more research on the "magic cure" of charter schools. Its times like these that I wish our crystal ball would appear and show everyone what will happen to our country 5,10,15 years down this road of "reform." I would really hate for our country to be worse off then it is now and for people to finally wake up and realize that teachers, actual teachers have the answers. You just need to ask us!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/08/2012 - 22:22.

I agree, we are not wishing things away. We shouldn't accept the fact that we will be laid off, make less money, and teach to the test. The problem in the world is silent people who conform and adapt to reality. I believe we should stand up for what is right. Afterall, teachers went to school because they wanted to teach, and we spent a lot of time learning how to teach. Of course, we are concerned with the welfare of our schools, our careers, and most importantly our students! We want what is best for them. I want to teach at the same school next year, so I can interact and continue to influence their lives in a positive way. School provides students with comfort and stability. Students will be crushed if I'm laid off, and they don't see me anymore. I know....the coporate way to go about things is: "children are resilent, they will get over it."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/08/2012 - 22:25.

Once upon a time Tom had the guts to point the finger at incompetent principals. He still had a job down at the Inquirer back then. Now he seems to be a shil for charters and quick to belittle teachers while looking the other way when it comes to the charters he loves. Hey Tom, why is it charters teachers fired from public schools if they claim they want to do better than the public schools? How come charter shils never answer that one? Why hire the worst if you really want to be the best. The only reason I can think of is that they are desperate enough to work for lower wages, less benefits, and crappy hours. How come you never call for accountability for charter CEOs, the politicians that profit from charters or public school administrators or even parents? I'd like to see Tom do a Tony Danza and enlist to teach for a year, but with a full roster and no extra help like Tony got. I doubt that he would make it through the year.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/09/2012 - 10:42.

The UAW members were angry, too, until they drove their companies into bankruptcy with their outrageous benefits packages.

Submitted by Lisa Marie (not verified) on Fri, 03/09/2012 - 14:02.

A lot of parents and a good number of people without children also despise NCLB & the over-emphasis on standardized testing, Corbett's budget cuts, incompetent PSD officials who messed up the budget and are still collecting ridiculous salaries, the lack of bold action by the SRC, scripted curriculums, walk-through teams, and lots of other things. We just tend to comment less since we have less direct knowledge of how these policies play out in the classrooms.

--equally pissed-off PSD parent

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on Fri, 03/09/2012 - 14:08.

Sadly a lot of parents I talk to believed that this law meant their child could not be retained in grade for any reason. It was poorly names as well as not realistic.

Submitted by hd pvr (not verified) on Sun, 09/01/2013 - 16:13.

It's nearly impossible to find educated people for this topic, but you seem
like you know what you're talking about!
Thanks

Submitted by I Teach in Philly on Fri, 03/09/2012 - 17:20.

As I posted on the original article:

Basically you're telling teachers that you hear what they say about our schools' present situation and then telling them to adapt, to "get used to it."

I am *not* about to get used to:
- the legacy of a former superintendent and SRC that left a crushing debt for our schools
- a district that expects us to raise test scores but doesn't provide basic classroom materials
- school counselors that don't follow through with the next step of CSAP: setting up parent conferences
- walk-through teams that think "gotcha" is better than pedagogical support
- parents that don't show up for conferences or even give us a valid phone number so we can contact them
- students who are chronically late or absent from school, don't come prepared for class (I teach high school) and proudly announce, "I don't do homework"

If you expect me to shut up and "get used to it" (adapt) then you have just given me one more reason to leave teaching: what you want me to accept is unacceptable.

Submitted by tom ferrick (not verified) on Fri, 03/09/2012 - 20:13.

I am sorry to say these comments merely reinforce the point I was making in the piece I did in Metropolis (www.phl.metropolis.com). Many teachers are in denial and they want to turn back the clock to a different time.
It is as if a reporter who works for a metro newspaper in 2012 filled up the comments section of a journalism site with comments about how the Internet is destroying newspapers and how the solution is to ban the Internet. The discussion -- and the reality -- have advanced far beyond that.
It's too late to argue over the validity of charters, etc. It's too late to roll back the clock.
I love and respect the job teachers do in the classroom. Many of them are heros of our time.
But, it does no good to urge a return to 1983 -- not in public education, not in journalism, not in the American economy. Times have changed and teachers -- collectively -- have to adapt to that change or, I am sorry to say, perish.
TF

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/09/2012 - 22:40.

Tom Ferrick, you are an disgrace to every teacher who ever taught you. They must hanging their heads in shame and embarrassment. Privately owned schools are not the wave of the future or we have no democracy. Do you think democracy is obsolete too?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 03/10/2012 - 15:59.

Only 17% of charters perform better than the average traditional public schools. You may say it isn't fair to be judged on test scores alone-- well, that's where the "failing" label put on public schools comes from. And that's with a smaller, on average, special needs population.

The pieces where they do better are parent involvement and satisfaction and spending the money they get on classrooms rather than bureaucracy.

The question should be how can we get our public schools to be more like the few charters that outperform them-- NOT how can we create as many charters as possible as fast as possible.

You fail to address any of the points people are making who are commenting rationally.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on Sat, 03/10/2012 - 19:07.

No, Tom. What the comments mean is you are working under a series of mistaken impressions. Disagreeing with your conclusions does not mean teachers are out of touch. It means that you don't really understand what's happening in the schools.

I am not against all charter schools, for instance. Community charter schools like MAST are wonderful. For-profit charter schools are a different deal and they vary in their effectiveness. Politicians and advertisers, however, have brainwashed parents into believing charters are synonymous with a quality education, despite statistics that contradict this belief.

Do you know anyone at all who agrees with NCLB as it exists? Other than George Bush? I don't. This is not just a teacher stance - no one who understands the law believes in it, including our current secretary of education.

Your ego is getting in the way here - your beliefs are not the standard to which we should determine the degree to which anyone is "out of touch."

Submitted by Vintage (not verified) on Sun, 03/11/2012 - 22:23.

Mr. Ferrick:

If The Internet versus newspapers is how you are justifying your assertions, you are comparing apples to oranges.

Teachers are quite adaptable; they adapt to new Superintendents with new "innovative programs" many, many times over the course of a career.

They adapt to top-down directives of the latest education fad embraced by the education establishment who never taught a day in the classroom.

However, what is happening now is a distinct dichotomization of the education system in America. To wit, one population of students with access to only McFranchises of Education run without any input from teachers by people who know only about business and marketing. In truth they are asking teachers to think of children as products they put together and manufacture instead of children.

Their claim to fame is the ability to jettison defective products, (be they teachers or children), based soley on cursory and unreliable data) using unproven methods of pedagogy, rather than to create solid educational outcomes for these children. It's test prep and discipline without any extras to make a well-educated individual. The mavens of school reform charge $50,000 a pop to spread their monetary gospel with the fervor of an AMWAY meeting.These schools are hitching those children's wagons to a mule.

Creative and innovative thinking teachers are not wanted there. It goes against the lock-step formula for "success." With all this after nearly 11 years and three separate studies, these McEducator's have not proven to be effective or much better than traditional public schools in cities, but why sully this discussion with the facts?

The other system consists of a population of students who are well-funded and do not have to be bothered with the wonderful, superior charter school methods as their schools run on primarily traditional models, small class sizes, access to any and every resource imaginable with all support available. Teachers are given autonomy to be innovative, creative and think outside of the box; skills that build future leaders. There schools are hitching their children's wagons to a star and the sky's the limit!

It's absolutely un-Democratic, but the politics of envy and hate have spoken. Teachers are now to be persecuted, disrespected and maligned at every turn. If teachers MUST endure this it wouldn't be so bad if the salary was comparable to educational preparation one puts in to become a teacher.

However, most teachers are not in it for the income, but for the OUTcome.

No one is asking to return to 1983. I would be happy to return to 2012 as it operates JUST across City Line Avenue; a bit like 1983, but with state-of-the-art resources, autonomy, creativity, and those who value teacher input. To what you, Mr. Ferrick, are asking that teachers adapt here in Philadelphia seals the fate of a population already struggling against societal odds.

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on Mon, 03/12/2012 - 14:12.

 Well said, Vintage.  McEducator, I like that.

 

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on Fri, 03/09/2012 - 20:33.

 Tom...The analogy with the internet is a bad one.   The internet is a significant technological change, much like the Gutenberg invention of the printing press.   This new technology changes the nature of communication and has far reaching economic implications

The school reform agenda we are discussing here has no such roots.   It is part of a larger political movement, neo-liberalism, which belittles the role of government and public institutions in favor of market forces.   There is a fierce debate all over the world about the wisdom of this course and there are broad social movements that oppose it.   The outcome is by no means clear.   But to characterize those who stand in opposition to this trend as Luddites is simply an attempt to avoid debating the very real issues here.

The consequences of this approach in Chile, Iraq, Poland, Russia and South Africa to cite just a few places where radical privatization has been employed, should give pause.   Deepening social inequality and withering of democratic institutions is evident in all of these places, and, unfortunately, in our country as well.

Submitted by Angry Teacher (not verified) on Sat, 03/10/2012 - 00:08.

Accountability starts at home. Repect for authority starts at home. basic knowledge should start at home. The desire to improve should be instilled by family values. The understanding that when you get homework, you should do it, comes from home. YET, TEACHERS ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE. When do we realize that we can fully educate any child who wants to be educated and gives a hoot whether they are successful in life. We can save many without that drive if the parents care. But when I call home for a child who has not been in class for a month and ask Mom where they have been, and she tells me she wakes him up but he doesn't want to go, what in the world can I do as a teacher to educate that child?

Can we please place the blame where it belongs, because as a parent, I make sure my children know that I expect them to get an education and get the most from school that they can. I am in touch with their teachers and my kids have known from the time they were school age, how important school is to their development. The blame for education falls on the parent. To see that their child gets educated. If that were happening, you could put 50 kids in a classroom and all would get the education expected from home.

Stp blming the people who get cursed out and disrespected and treated like trash for the results of an uncaring home where a child runs the family. I refuse to allow a child to run my class for I am the teacher. Why do the parents allow the child to run the house? They are not the parent. Come now people, step up to the plate and see what you have allowed to enter our schools to play and socialize all day long with no repercussions.

Submitted by linda (not verified) on Sat, 03/10/2012 - 05:24.

As an art teacher, we are know what it is like on the day to day of budget cuts, being left out of general agendas in faculty meetings and having parents and students claim the "unimportance of the subject" Physed, music, computer and alll subjects in expressive arts can claim the same.

What some of the teachers have expressed [although rather crude in speech] makes me sad. What are we doing? Parents and kids can and will do so much. Administrators be they in your building or downtown the same.

How many of the commentors have sought to work within the building? within the PFT? not your thing you say? Okay.

How many have written letters to school admin, downtown, PFT to make opinions heard with the worker's NAMEclearly stated?

How many have taken course work to learn something new because THEY chose to do so?

You are all correct. We should not have to buy supplies, but then weren't you doing that before? or did you just let the kids sit with nothing? No paper, no pencil, no xeroxed copies of books?

You are right that kids will come and state what they won't do, but in the end, are you willing to get another skills, transfer to another school, work in another district, get another cert. or go so far as to change professions? Can you retire?Can you afford to take a pay cut?

Find some joy, some way to teach those you can and give up the notion of teaching everyone everything. Try teaching some kids something and know that everything will not be covered in your lesson plan.

Who among us works in a world of all advanced people?

Teach with respect and know that seeds are being planted by you. Talk to kids, call parents with a tone of "we are working to help your child," send letters and give good notes where you can.

Realize that you can leave the job. Keep your mental health and sanity.

If you can not leave, find a way to make your space better. No one will come in and save the day, no prince will come, get out and realize that poverty like what I see on a daily basis makes for poor choices both inside and outside of the homes and the schools.

Make your own metropolis. Better yet, work on Utopia.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 03/10/2012 - 16:08.

I just wanted to add something about charter schools and the common idea that they can easily get rid of "trouble" students and toss them to the district schools. I work at a charter and we cannot get rid of any students without a few parent meetings, academic/behavioral interventions, a formal board meeting etc. So unless all the other charter schools are doing it illegally, or somehow are exempt from this, from what I have seen it is not an easy process to expel a student unless the proper channels have been taken. Of course if a student does something illegal or serious, I am sure it would be easier to expel them as some offenses are zero-tolerance. In general, if a student is just not performing up to par, or is getting in trouble they don't just get tossed out immediately.

Yes, it is true that when a child is expelled from a charter school the only choice usually is for them to attend a district school, usually their neighborhood school. Like district schools, there are some good and some bad charter schools. However, just as teachers dislike when people paint all teachers with the same brush, it isn't fair to also paint all charters with the same brush.

We have a lottery like all charters and are not cherry picking the kids. If they don't follow the rules and expectations of the school they are at risk of leaving (I would assume all schools have this policy). The only difference I can say is does appear from what I have read/heard that the district makes it harder for students to be expelled (I've heard firsthand stories of students assaulting teachers and being back the next day or week in class), while some charters have a more streamlined process of expelling kids who do not follow expectations.

Submitted by tom-104 on Sat, 03/10/2012 - 18:07.

Aren't you contradicting yourself at the beginning and end of your comment? At the beginning you say it is very hard for a charter to remove a student. At the end you say "some charters have a more streamlined process of expelling kids who do not follow expectations."

This is the point. Public schools are required by law to educate all students (which I do not disagree with). There is no "streamlined process of expelling kids who do not follow expectations." At the most a student might be transferred to another school.

When a charter student is expelled they go back to a public school.

To put this question to rest there must be the same transparency for charters that the public schools are required to give. Public schools' expulsion statistics are printed on the School District web site. Why not charters?

Submitted by citizen (not verified) on Sat, 03/10/2012 - 18:28.

I worry that charters can (and do) get rid of kids in an unofficial way that would stay beneath the radar even if we had more transparency. The charter administrators can conference with a student and with his family to convey the message that he and the school are "not a good fit," "advising" the family to find another placement.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 03/10/2012 - 20:14.

As someone who educates expelled students, I can tell you that many students who are in disciplinary and/or alternative schools came from charters. I wouldn't say that the numbers are completely disproportionate to the ratio of charter v traditional enrollments, when you look at the whole picture.

I would say that the schools that were about to become the next group of Renaissance schools suddenly had a lot of students leaving. I would also say that Promise Academies expel students more easily than neighborhood schools.

It is disheartening to hear all this talk about who can get rid of the "problem kids" the easiest. Nobody wants to talk about who can educate the neediest. Charter schools don't brag about success with "problem kids." Do I believe that disruptive students should be removed from traditional settings with 30 kids? Yes. But the goal is to solve the students' problems, not solve their enrollment at your school.

I am glad that we are suddenly talking about what to do with students who are truant, who disrupt instruction, who are returning to school from the juvenile detention system, who have emotional disturbances. However, the discussion revolves around how to get rid of them, instead of how to teach them.

One last point-- district students who are expelled (almost always for 45 days, permanent expulsions are very rare) return to district schools. Charter students who get reinstated almost always return to district schools, not charters. If you look at currently expelled students, the contrast between district and charter is not as obvious. But if you sampled a population to see who has ever been expelled, the district's numbers will be much higher.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on Sat, 03/10/2012 - 19:09.

Two students who ended up at my school where thrown out of a charter because their PSSA schools were less than proficient.

Submitted by tom-104 on Sat, 03/10/2012 - 20:59.

Interesting how the privatizers always talk about data driven decisons when they talk about closing schools. Yet, most of the data for charter schools is hidden. Occasionally we get a glimpse at how this game is being played, such as the conflict between the Chester Community Charter School and the Inquirer over the newspapers 2009 request for their salary and contract documents. The Charter is appealing this request all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court:

http://tinyurl.com/8xftv3c

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