NACSA President and CEO Greg Richmond comments on Sarah Carr’s piece in The Atlantic on discipline in New Orleans’ charter schools over at Education Post:
…Carr’s article does an excellent job of describing how school leaders, parents, students and communities are re-thinking how the implementation of high behavioral expectations happen on a day-to-day basis.
Many of them come to appreciate the intense structure, but only if they also come to trust the mostly young educators who enforce it. As school leaders in New Orleans are discovering, forging that trust is far harder than teaching someone to say thank you and toe an orange line.
And importantly, it appears that part of that re-thinking is reducing the number of kids who are suspended and expelled—demonstrating that it’s possible to embrace “no excuses” and “strict discipline” without removing a lot of students from school as many effective schools have done for decades…
Read the whole thing here.
NACSA President and CEO Greg Richmond has joined the Advisory Board of Education Post, a new organization created to foster a better conversation “about public education and what our children need — an honest and civil conversation of many voices, united by a common belief in the power of education to transform lives.”
Greg made his own contribution to this better conversation in a post about the need for ideologues on both sides of the charter school debate to turn down the rhetoric and consider ways that we can learn from each other and work together. Greg notes that “Charter critics often dismiss [Al] Shanker’s vision of collaboration because the debate is consumed by an “us versus them mentality” and the baseless notion that charters exist solely to “privatize” education, destroy unions and drain traditional schools of money and motivated students.” Opponents, he says “should be delighted to learn that Shanker’s vision is alive and well in district-charter partnerships across the nation” but that these partnerships, while promising are far from the norm.
Too often, the political rhetoric surrounding charter schools is so toxic that district and neighborhood educators feel uneasy meeting with “the enemy” — much less acknowledging they may be able to learn from each other.
Read the whole thing here.
Guest Post: Larry Miller and Betheny Gross
Charter schools are leading the nation in seeking new ways to personalize learning with a blend of teacher-led and technology-based instruction. If they are successful, these schools will dramatically accelerate student learning and use their funding much more strategically. Unfortunately, early bumps in the road (bumps familiar to anyone who has started a new school) are steering some of these schools off course. But as authorizers, you can help these schools stay on track with hard but pointed questions to leaders proposing these new models.
Over the last year at CRPE we’ve been examining the finances of 8 new charter schools that opened in 2012 with personalized learning models that incorporated strong technology elements. The schools were all recipients of startup grants from Next General Learning Challenges (NGLC).
In the first year of implementation many of these schools missed enrollment projections and fundraising targets leading to budget gaps. That they faced these challenges is not surprising – missed projections are fairly common in startups. The way these schools handled those budget gaps, however, raised some red flags. Six of the schools severely cut their technology budgets, potentially jeopardizing their efforts to personalize learning and more productively use their resources.
Authorizers reviewing applications for these schools can do themselves and the prospective school leaders a favor by asking a few pointed questions like the following:
- What are your plans for student recruitment and private fundraising? What will make these efforts successful?
- How will your resource allocations change if you miss your enrollment target?
- What will you cut if you miss your revenue target? What if your budget gap is $200,000 or more?
- How will your contracts for software, hardware, and even facilities allow you to flex costs with enrollment fluctuations?
- What contingency plans do you have in place for technology that does not work out?
Charter schools, with all their flexibility and incentives to improve, are the perfect testing ground for the most innovative and modern approaches to personalized learning and more productive ways to organize staff and time. But new charter schools, whether or not they use technology, are often overly optimistic about enrollment and fundraising projections. And when revenues fall short, they can easily fall back into very traditional thinking: that technology is an add-on, not a new way of doing business. Authorizers can help by pushing schools to be both realistic about budgets and ambitious about new, more productive ways to approach schooling.