Cherokee provides view of natural tensions over charter school amendment

Readers of this blog will be familiar with the tensions in Cherokee between the school system and the legislative delegation and the board redistricting legislation that resulted. You can find quite a few posts on the issues if you search Cherokee.

It will be interesting to see whether the school system’s opposition to the state charter school amendment will have any impact on voters in November.

Here is a good summation of the Cherokee situation from the AJC’s Jeffry Scott:

For 10 months a battle has raged in Cherokee County over charter schools. A bill passed by the legislature putting a charter school amendment on the ballot November has done little to clear the smoke or diffuse the heat.

It has just ignited new opposition in the county and given rise to the prospect that the debate and battle could expand across the state, say opponents of the amendment that would give Georgia the power to create charter schools without local school board approval.

Over the last year the north metro county has become ground zero for state fight over charter schools. The six-member Cherokee County legislative delegation, led by George State Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, pushed the bill to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Two weeks ago the Cherokee County Board of Education struck back, voting 4-2 against the amendment. The board and Cherokee County Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo said the bill threatens funding of public schools in the county and across the state because it’s unclear where the state will get the money to start the charter schools.

Two other school boards in the state, in Columbia County and Spalding County, have passed similar resolutions against the proposed amendment which the Georgia School Boards Association last month called “damaging legislation” that “gives legal authority to the state to strip local citizens of their rights on taxation and representation.”

“We think this is going to become a bigger issue statewide by November,” said Angela Palm, director of policy and legislative services for the Georgia School Boards Association.  In Cherokee, it was just the latest confrontation between the board and the local Republican Party.

Last summer the Cherokee Republican Party demanded four board members who rejected, for the third time, a plan to build Cherokee Charter Academy, resign from Republican the party. The state stepped in and funded Cherokee Charter Academy, which laid the groundwork for the Cherokee legislative delegation to author its bill.

Danny Dukes, head of the Charter School Committee of the Cherokee Republican Party said this week the dispute has grown more volatile since the amendment got on the November ballot. He blamed the school board and Petruzielo for misrepresenting it. “They’ve made it a money issue, and it shouldn’t be about money,” said Dukes. “It should be about educating our kids.”

Petruzielo said the dispute isn’t about education, it’s about obfuscation. “If the majority of Cherokee voters learned what the constitutional amendment will do to further erode the quality of existing public schools, they would run to the polls to vote it down,” he said.

Board members claim the dispute spilled into the Cherokee legislative delegation’s redrawing of school board’s districts and governance model, which they said did not follow federal and state reapportionment guidelines.Under the redrawn map the two most outspoken opponents of the legislative delegation, board chairman Mike Chapman, and Vice-Chair Janet Read, are redistricted out of their posts.

“They’re clearly not happy with the school board, and this was just a get even deal,” said Chapman.

Dukes said that the map the board suggested was even more politicized than the one the delegation finally settled on and passed through the legislature. “You talk about gerrymandering?” said Dukes. “You should have seen that map and the twists and turns it made. That was some gerrymandering.”

One of the most outspoken critics of the board and supporter of charter schools, Kelly Marlow, who headed the pro-charter group, Cherokee Parents For Choice, said she plans to run for the board. On the other side of the issue, two groups have formed since last summer supporting the school board and opposing the November amendment.

Elizabeth Crook, community liaison for Cherokee Parents For The Kids, said her group isn’t opposed to charter schools. It’s in favor of supporting one of the best public school systems in the state. “It all comes down to fiscal responsibility,” she said. “Right now the state is not fully funding public education, how can they fund newly created charter schools? They can’t answer that.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

39 comments Add your comment

Being Censored by @Maureen

May 2nd, 2012
11:10 am

@Maureen, Cherokee is making a strategic blunder here. “Right now the state is not fully funding public education.” Are you joking? I just saw the total spending levels by school system, and even though Cherokee is one of our better performing systems at 75% graduation rate, that still means that they’re not graduating ~ 10,000 kids!!

The charter amendment is going to pass – and if anything, the final language only means that local school boards should work to approve the applications, otherwise the state can step in, and in that situation, state funds are used, not local funds.

I believe that Cherokee has lost the war of words, and this amendment will surely pass in November. Change is coming to Georgia, because the status quo is woefully unacceptable!

catlady

May 2nd, 2012
11:36 am

“Natural” tensions? Or unmittigated jockying for power and money?

EduKtr

May 2nd, 2012
11:40 am

Charter schools ARE public schools. How do Cherokee school board members get elected without knowing that?

Other than those bankrolled by GAE/NEA.

The REAL ground zero tactic for teachers’ unions on the wrong side of education reform is to fund school board candidates who promise in advance to vote against expanding parental choice. The more the charter school option expands nationally, after all, the more it eats into union revenues in school systems elsewhere which force unionization on teachers.

Teachers typically shun unions when there’s an option. With charter schools, both teachers and parents enjoy options that the union bosses and their school board puppets would deny.

Beverly Fraud

May 2nd, 2012
11:41 am

“…unmittigated jockying for power and money?”

Well…those seem to be natural INTENTIONS (pardon the pun) when it comes to Jawja.

Waiting for Superman

May 2nd, 2012
12:01 pm

Charter schools ARE public schools. How do Cherokee school board members get elected without knowing that?

Other than those bankrolled by GAE/NEA.

The REAL ground zero tactic for teachers’ unions on the wrong side of education reform is to fund school board candidates who promise in advance to vote against expanding parental choice. The more the charter school option expands nationally, after all, the more it eats into union revenues in school systems elsewhere which force unionization on teachers.

Teachers typically shun unions when there’s an option. With charter schools, both teachers and parents enjoy options that the union bosses and their school board puppets would deny. And of course, principals can finally replace incompetent teachers.

Aquagirl

May 2nd, 2012
12:26 pm

Exurbanites gone wild! This should be great….Where’s my popcorn?

Mary Elizabeth

May 2nd, 2012
1:25 pm

I have said before, and I will say again on this thread, that as a senior citizen (without a child now in public schools) and as retired public school teacher, I do not want my taxes going to pay for state commissioned charter schools that do not intend to work cooperatively with local school boards.

I believe that there is a hidden agenda in the state charter school amendment and movement, and I believe that interests and ideological forces outside of Georgia are instrumental in this movement, which will eventually lead to using schools for profit purposes. I do not support using students for profit. I gladly pay taxes for traditional public schools, and even for charter schools which work in harmony with local boards of education, but the state charter school amendment is a thing apart from that purpose, in my opinion. I believe this movement, regarding state charter schools, is a veiled attempt to dismantle, further, public education in Georgia.
———————————————————————————————

I posted the following words on this blog, initially, on April 3, 2012:

“Public charter schools are one possiblility that may help to improve traditional public schools, but not all charter schools will automatically do that. Some charter schools are inferior to public schools as test results have shown. Nevertheless, if charter schools are carefully assigned and limited in number, and if they are encouraged to work in harmony with public schools, this latest educational endeavor could become an opportunity that could benefit both public charter schools and traditional public schools. The key is working together, and not working in competition with one another. Moreover, that is a better model for students to observe and to emulate.”

http://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/about-education-essay-6-on-georgias-charter-school-movement/

Jim Horn

May 2nd, 2012
1:43 pm

My first year of teaching was in Washington County in 1971, just a year after desegregation finally came to Georgia. At that time white church-sponsored “academies” were springing up all over as a way to keep segregation alive.

Now 40 years later the segregated academies are called charter schools, and in the leafy suburbs they are all white, while in the urban core they are all black or brown. The difference is that now resegregation is paid for with tax dollars without oversight or regulation.

In terms of demonizing teachers’ unions, you may note that the most unionized states are the ones with the highest student NAEP scores. Just an odd correlation, I am sure.

For the corporate ed reformers (Waltons, Gates, Broad, Fishers, etc.) who now control the US Dept. of Education–and Washngton, the charter push is about turning public education and the rest of our public institutions into corporate revenue streams. Meanwhile, the Koch sponsored Tea Party pretends to believe that a socialist conspiracy is the culprit. Good grief. Wake up and smell the coffee.

Recommended reading:
http://www.psmag.com/education/charter-schools-what-would-dr-king-say-26976/

Formerteacher

May 2nd, 2012
1:50 pm

I take issue with the statement that all charter schools are public schools. Only insofar as they dip into the public coffers. Here is why I don’t consider them “public schools”:

1. Charter schools can limit their enrollment, thus keeping class sizes small. How very nice for them. Public schools must educate everyone who lives in the district.

2. Charter schools do not have to, and generally don’t, offer transportation. Public schools MUST do so, and at ever increasing costs. Think what could be done with that money if they didn’t have to run buses, maintain them, and pay bus drivers.

3. I have heard of special needs children being turned away from a charter because the services they required weren’t offered. Again, public schools have no such option. They must educate all comers with whatever IEP mandates are required.

Now, this primarily refers to the start-up charters run by outside companies. I generally favor conversion charters because they don’t send money to a for-profit management company and they do require the buy-in off the staff and parents.

Why can’t we make ALL schools “charter schools” by lifting the restrictions that inhibit good teaching, such as increasing class sizes and mindless unfunded mandates that do nothing to improve student learning? Oh, right, because that doesn’t put lobbyist money in anyone’s pocket. Silly me. I thought it was “all about the kids.”

HS Public Teacher

May 2nd, 2012
1:57 pm

Until someone…. ANYONE…. can explain why a charter would be any better than a regular public school, then why have them?

No one has really been able to do this.

Charter schools must adhere to all rules and regulations that a public school must follow – or so I’m told. Charter schools must take the upcoming “voucher” of any student – or so I’m told. A charter school cannot expel a student any differently than a public school – or so I’m told.

The only difference that I see is that a charter can be run by a private company that makes a profit off of my tax dollars – and I do have a problem with that!

Waiting for Superman

May 2nd, 2012
2:32 pm

Those interested in something other than the union’s poisoned view on charter schools … can read this from the Center for Education Reform, which is at the forefront struggling to bring reform:

http://www.edreform.com/issues/choice-charter-schools/

Public School Mom

May 2nd, 2012
2:55 pm

Our legislators true colors are in full bloom with the Fulton Science Academy saga. The state just issued a letter recommending denial of FSA’s charter petition citing 11 violations (including not being able to account for $6m of rev. bond money) of policy. The North Fulton Delegation has publically reprimanded FCBOE for denying the charter as submitted back in December and never wanted to hear anything about the schools reckless behavior since then. Our legislators, Jones, Rogers, Albers, Riley etc,. encouraged the parents and students of FSA to trust the schools administration. Our legislators have behaved recklessly by their vocal involvement in FSA’s charter petition process. So – should we trust our legislators with the power to set up a separate charter school system – not accountable to the public?? NO WAY!!

Mountain Man

May 2nd, 2012
3:06 pm

There are two sides to this controversy. One is that it seems that Cherokee County School System is admitting that it did not approve charters because of the money. On the other side, I have said repeatedly that charter schools, like vouchers, should only get the amount of money that would have gone into educating the student at the regular public school – NOT the average. That AVERAGE is highly skewed by SPED students who can be turned away by Charters. So the charter school should find itself getting about $5000 per student per year, not the average.

Mountain Man

May 2nd, 2012
3:08 pm

“Charter schools must adhere to all rules and regulations that a public school must follow – or so I’m told.”

Are charters required to take any student that applies, regardless of SPED status, discipline status?

Laughing about Charter

May 2nd, 2012
3:09 pm

Waiting for Superman is apprarently using the same script as EduKtr. Either that or it is the same person.

Dred Scott

May 2nd, 2012
3:39 pm

When looking at the most recent graduation rates, we see APS, DeKalb and Clayton graduating below 60% of their students. In the state, only five, yes 5 out of 180, are graduating 90% or more of their students. Think about that people. Less than 5% of all school districts, representing less than 2% of the students in Georgia attend districts which are graduating 9 out of 10 students.

It is about time for education reform and I for one am thankful that we as a state are opening up options for children in public K-12 education.

Competition

May 2nd, 2012
3:56 pm

Traditional Public Education was, at one time, a good thing. Now, not so much. A monopoly is a monopoly whether public or private. Competetion is good for the consumer, which, in this case are our children. I can understand retired teachers nostalgia of a better time, but today, especially inside the perimeter, the more choice the better!!!

Shel

May 2nd, 2012
4:56 pm

I agree with Public School Mom and will add that FSA put themselves in the mess they are in. If they had submitted a realistic petition and had followed the other rules they wouldn’t be in so much trouble. The school board didn’t fail the kids, the school did. What a shame.

Decatur Joe

May 2nd, 2012
4:58 pm

@ Dred is 100% correct. Enough is enough. Children, parents, teachers, and communities deserve options within public K-12 education. We need every opportunity possible for the children in our state.

Tony

May 2nd, 2012
5:12 pm

It’s time for the folks pushing charter schools to come clean on the issues. They are obfuscating, as one poster has claimed. They blow smoke by using phrases like “improve parent choice” or “competition will improve all the schools” and they make these claims while all the hard numbers clearly indicate there are no improvements gained as a result of charter schools. It is about money and power.

In this year’s legislative session, good and honorable legislators were threatened, harassed, and intimidated into voting for the resolution and enabling legislation. All as a result of party politics and not because this resolution is good for Georgia’s students.

For those making the false claim that the funding for charter schools will not reduce funding for public schools, you have been drinking the kool-aid of the party way too long. In our state, you have not fully funded public schools for many years now. How are we supposed to believe that adding a charter school funding mechanism will not affect funding for public schools?

And to you that continue to claim that charter schools are public schools, you may be technically correct, but the reality is way different. Charter schools are frequently managed by a for-profit company. If you check out the details about these companies based on evidence from Florida charter schools (check the Miami newspaper’s series), you will know what Georgia can expect when the floodgates are opened.

Then after these startups come in and do their damage, who is left holding the bag? The students who signed up and the public schools that have to take the students back in. And this is after the other school has taken the money and run.

Yes. There will be a harmful effect on our public schools – even the really good ones.

sneak peek into education

May 2nd, 2012
5:27 pm

If charter schools are truly the “magic bullet”, as some on this blog purport, I would welcome them with open arms. However, in almost all cases, charter schools perform at either the same level or below that of the neighborhood schools. So why the push? It can only be about the money. Yes, I agree that there are a few that outperform local schools but their numbers are limited, making these examples nothing more than outliers. Currently there are a variety of choices when it comes to educating our children but dismantling the public school system should be off limits. Provide meaningful, research-based reform by looking at other countries like Finland, who have already shown that their educational model is successful. But then, it would take money to institute the sweeping changes that would be required. Again, back to the money!

It seems to me that those who are pushing for the state legislature to have the ability to approve charter schools are doing so because they are following a right-wing agenda (via ALEC) to decimate the current structure to allow private business to move in and make a profit off the backs of our children. What I don’t understand is why those very people who are pushing for this constitutional amendment to pass are the very same people who scream about smaller government and keeping local control; this would take the control out of the local residents and school boards hands and put it into the hands of legislatures who don’t live in their neighborhoods and certainly don’t send their kids to public schools. Seems like a huge contradiction to me. Furthermore, we all know that our legislatures are unashamed at their willingness to be wined and dined by lobbyists and have no desire to change the ethics laws that would limit their ability to be bought (this goes for both sides of the aisles). I don’t trust that they have our children’s interests at heart and they have proved this with their current stance of slashing school budgets.

Furthermore, I am concerned that no-one can say where the money will come from to fund the new charter schools. Shame on our legislature and their supporters for trying to blind side the public; they want to make it seem like it’s all for the children when truly it’s about lining the pockets of their pals.

Mary Elizabeth

May 2nd, 2012
5:38 pm

Here is a subset link, from the link provided by “Waiting for Superman” above, regarding teachers’ state pensions. Some in the media believe that the same forces who are seeking to form charter schools, to the dismantling of traditional public schools, are also trying to effect teachers’ pensions, adversely.

After you view the link below, remember that Rep. Jan Jones, who sponsored the state charter school amendment bill, had just before that, sponsored another bill which would have allowed administrators of state assigned charter schools to mandate that teachers of their state assigned charter schools could not be members of the Teacher Retirement System of Georgia. That bill was later withdrawn.

http://www.edreform.com/2012/04/17/pensions-at-michigan-charters-expense/

Ron F.

May 2nd, 2012
5:42 pm

The legislative delegation, state level representatives, had no business redrawing district lines for the county BOE. The local voters elected the board and should have the final say in who stays and who goes. What they’ve done is strip local control and place it in the hands of the state. Why couldn’t they wait until after the amendment passes and let the new state commission set up the charters? I’m afraid their impatience may not get them the public support they think, but we’ll see.

As to the need for charters, APS and Dekalb have sealed the deal for many folks. If I were a parent in either distirct, I’d welcome them in a heartbeat. Anything would be better than the managerial mess they’ve created.

Finally, I will ask again as I have many times. How will charter schools change the pool of kids which need to be educated? How will they fix the societal problems that bring us kids who we all know drag down the system? The answer is simple: they won’t. One big driving force in this movement is the desire to get away from the undesirable and leave them to fend for themselves. Until you fix the kids in the state and turn them all into engaged, happy learners, no reform model will achieve 100% success. But many know that and don’t care- they just want to be able to ignore the problems and hide in suburban bliss and assumed safety. As recent events have proven, gated communities are, in reality, no better, and simply creating a new school design that blocks out the “bad kids” won’t fix education. I guess we’ll see come November what the next chapter of this story will be.

SusanL

May 2nd, 2012
5:49 pm

Very well stated Sneak Peek! When all is said and done, our legislators have demonstrated through their actions and their votes that they do not care about the children or about education. It truly is all about the money. And the legislative delegation in Cherokee County has demonstrated this over and over to the voters in Cherokee County. I sincerely hope that the voters remember all of this on July 31!

Decatur Joe

May 2nd, 2012
6:15 pm

I want charter schools so that I can make a decision which will be in the best interest of my child. I am not satisfied with my zoned school. I wish I had the opportunity to determine what the best public school is for my child. Am I suppose to wait until the local board of education turns the district around? That may take years if it happens at all. I support the state’s right to approve charter schools. If the school is not meeting its objectives, it can and should be shut down. That type of accountability has never and will never happen within a local district.

Beverly Fraud

May 2nd, 2012
6:39 pm

Are you ‘Waiting For Superman’?

REMOVE THE KRYPTONITE! Give teachers the authority to discipline and the latitude to teach!

“And of course, principals can finally replace incompetent teachers.”

@Waiting, you ever considered that a more effective solution would be allowing teachers to replace incompetent ADMINISTRATORS?

You want a charter school that will succeed, try THAT.

sneak peek into education

May 2nd, 2012
7:08 pm

@Decatur Joe

I understand, we all want what is best for our children. However, when the research has proven, time after time, that Charter Schools do not provide more successful academic results than their local school board run schools, why do you feel that this is the magic bullet? Why put schools in the hands whose objectives is to make a profit on the backs of our children? Why put the schools in the hands of people (the legislatures) who have shown that they DON’T value public education and want to decimate it?

Brandy

May 2nd, 2012
7:13 pm

Well stated, Sneak Peak!

Everyone who is arguing for parental choice needs to consider the sheer number of choices you already have, without charter schools or vouchers:

-sending your child to your zoned public school
-sending your child to the private or parochial school of your choice
-homeschooling your child
-moving to a different school zone, district, or state
-running for school board or higher office to pursue implementation of the changes you believe should be made
-voting for candidates who support the changes you believe should be made
-becoming an administrator and affecting change at the school or district level
-becoming a teacher and affecting change at the classroom level

You have a plethora of choices–none of which sacrifice the public school system for the benefit of the few over the many.

Brandy

May 2nd, 2012
7:17 pm

@Ron F., Yes, segregation is behind the drive for charter schools–creating special schools for a select few at the expense of the many. If this isn’t the case, why not just apply what makes charter schools so “wonderful”, the ability to operate outside the rules that govern traditional public schools, to all schools?

crankee-yankee

May 2nd, 2012
8:31 pm

This is a post of mine from a few days ago but seems very appropo…

Nobel Learning Communities (charter schools in 15 states) successfully sued by the federal Dept of Justice for discriminating against kids with learning disabilities. (http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/January/11-crt-051.html).
Hmm, discriminating against kids, good corporate policy for sure.

Kaplan Higher Education Corporation sued by DOJ for a “systematic practice of refusing to hire African American job applicants. (http://www.lawyerscommittee.org/about/letters?id=0022).
Lets model segregation for our young, malleable minds.

Imagine Schools to pay out over 1/2 million in back wages plus lawyers fees, court costs, etc. for firing 2 pregnant employees (http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/3-18-10.cfm).
Gee, I guess they figure we have enough kids in the pipeline, they don’y need their employees adding to the population.

And not the least of which, right here in “good ol’ boy” GA, Greenforest-McCalep Christian Academic Center loses a pregnancy discrimination suit with the EEOC (http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/3-26-10.cfm).
No pregnant teachers are going to teach in my church!

These are the kind of bottom-feeders who will be found at the trough if local control (gee, isn’t that the mantra of the GOP?) is stripped away this fall. Only local control has a chance of keeping the corporate profiteers from edging in wholesale through bribery (sorry, I meant “legal gifts”) to the “right” (pun intended) people in the legislature. If it passes, watch how quickly the state will determine charters are needed almost everywhere.

Oh, and lets not forget the fundamentalists & creationism!
(http://www.southerneddesk.org/tag/creationism/)
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxP4gI-qNhc)

It won’t be long before John Q. Public wakes to the facts and pushes back, at the ballot box. Lets hope it starts in Cherokee Co.

The Truth Hurts

May 2nd, 2012
9:15 pm

Charter Schools are only going to be as good as the teachers they have, and with less pay and benefits what quality do they expect to find…lol. Leading a horse from one pond to another still isn’t going to make it drink. The solution starts with fixing the uninvolved parents and reinstating fear in the students if they don’t do their part. Perhaps working weekends at the local landfill might help.

Ron F.

May 2nd, 2012
9:23 pm

“I support the state’s right to approve charter schools. If the school is not meeting its objectives, it can and should be shut down. That type of accountability has never and will never happen within a local district.”

Joe: considering the mess Dekalb is in, I don’t blame you a bit. It has been coming for a long time, and I’m not sure anything could be worse. But how did it get that way? Voters, unlike yourself, either didn’t particpate or voted for the idiots who allowed the administration to run amok. If those voters won’t choose to step up and collectively demand a change, then how involved will they be in charter schools? And remember, if the state approves and funds the school, your only “control” will be to pull your child and try to find another school. I’m not sure handing over control to an appointed commission with no accountability to voters is any better in the long run. Until they spell out how accountability will be afforded, I would tread cautiously into this. That said, I know you feel that you have little choice and want a change.

Laurie

May 2nd, 2012
9:26 pm

The desire to segregate reasonably well-behaved (and non-violent) students who are interested in school from students who don’t fall within this description is probably part of what drives creation of charter schools (though I don’t think that’s all of it — there are many parents who would love to change the bureaucratic rules that govern traditional public schools, but it’s not as though parents can just snap their fingers and make that happen, any more than teachers can).

However, I can’t agree that charter schools necessarily create “special schools for the select few at the expense of the many.” It might be just reverse, that traditional public schools currently create special schools ostensibly serving the select few (if that) at the expense of the many. Moreover, given the proud pronouncements on another thread by teachers that they regularly use some students as unpaid teachers for other students, I can’t agree that declining to allow one’s child to be exploited in this way is a decision at the “expense” of other kids (except in the same way that not volunteering one’s child for bone marrow and kidney transplants is a decision at the “expense” of other kids).

crankee-yankee

May 2nd, 2012
9:43 pm

My links are mildly corrupted, sorry.
The problem is there is a parentheses at the end of the URL that needs to be deleted, then the link works fine.

The Truth Hurts

May 2nd, 2012
9:47 pm

@Laurie…..if you think out of the box you might realize that if a child can actually teach the material to another student then he or she has truly shown mastery of a concept. I use peer tutoring routinely in my on level and gifted classes. I only use volunteers of course and speak with their parents ahead of time. It has been very successful for both the gifted and struggling students. I have yet to find a gifted student who didn’t need help to further master a concept so as to teach it to another student…..it is the final stage of the learning process. It also helps build social skills that most gifted students lack. It has fostered relations between clicks so the struggling students don’t beat up you honor roll student…lol.

Brandy

May 3rd, 2012
2:08 am

@The Truth Hurts, Well said. Peer teaching, whether called reciprocal teaching or “think-pair-share”, is a wonderful way to encourage higher order thinking that even the most gifted of our students sometimes struggle with. And, it can go both ways, because the gifted or advanced child is not necessarily an expert in all subjects or all content—sometimes they can learn from the “bad”, disabled, or ELL students. Laurie, yes, it is sad and frustrating if you brilliant child is being left to rot without getting his or her needs met and is expected to be the teacher all of the time. If that is truly the case, someone at that school does not understand differentiation. However, I have trouble believing that is always true. I encourage you, and any other parent in your shoes, to approach this issue in two ways—first, you need to advocate for your child because you are that child’s best advocate; secondly, you need to help you child identify ways being in such a situation might be benefiting him or her, not just hurting. In the real world, we have to work with people of all stripes, talents, aptitudes, and attitudes, your child is getting an opportunity to learn how to navigate such waters effectively. School isn’t just about learning the content; it is also about learning the social skills, mores, and coping mechanisms that are required for life outside of school.

Dred Scott

May 3rd, 2012
9:53 am

@brandy, you state

“Everyone who is arguing for parental choice needs to consider the sheer number of choices you already have, without charter schools or vouchers: sending your child to your zoned public school, sending your child to the private or parochial school of your choice, homeschooling your child, moving to a different school zone, district, or state, running for school board or higher office to pursue implementation of the changes you believe should be made, voting for candidates who support the changes you believe should be made, becoming an administrator and affecting change at the school or district level, becoming a teacher and affecting change at the classroom level”

1. I am a former teacher and I have taught in both e traditional setting and in a charter public school. I like having the options available for me and my family
2. My zoned school is not meeting e standards I have set for quality
3. My wide and I both work and like most Americans, homeschooling is not a viable option. Additionally, why should a local district receive funds for students attending a private school or a home school?
4. How obtuse of you to suggest I should move if I want to have a choice for my children in public education. That very idea is offensive to all parents who want the best education possible for their child. You should be ashamed of yourself and I hope you rethink that callus commentary
5. While I agree that more pro public school option friendly board members need to be supported, I want the very best for my child today and I believe their is a role for the state to play in public education. That role should include e ability to empower communities across the state to be able to govern themselves I. Public K-12 education. That is Democracy at its best, the people doing what is best for their own community, not some school board which is out of touch with the students and citizens they are suppose to represent.

Laurie

May 3rd, 2012
10:54 am

“if you think out of the box you might realize that if a child can actually teach the material to another student then he or she has truly shown mastery of a concept.”

I don’t think you need to think outside the box to realize that teaching a subject can solidify and perhaps even deepen understanding. If you think it’s thinking out of the box to acknowledge that, then your box was too constricted in the first place. I do agree that a parent could react in a knee jerk fashion without stopping to consider that teaching can facilitate learning. But when intelligent, engaged, observant parents complain about this kind of thing, it’s not because of careful, judicious use of this technique individualized to the needs of specific students. It’s because (just as teachers rightfully complain that sometimes parents are using schools as “babysitting”) less than competent teachers, or teachers who might be competent in a reasonable environment with reasonable duties and reasonable classes sizes, are using students (at best) to teach other students without regard to the needs of and benefits to the “teaching” students (or the “taught” students either), or (at worst) to simply babysit each other.

In deciding whether a student will benefit by tutoring a peer, you really ought to be thinking not just about his level of mastery of a content subject, but (to the extent it’s possible to disentangle these) about his “learning edge” (or ZPD or whatever) in teaching itself. I have personally taught highly and exceptionally gifted children to read. I am only beginning to have experience teaching more typical children (and children who are probably handicapped by their home environments) to read, and although it is not a completely different thing, it *is* different, and there’s a definitely learning curve for me here. I expect that if I tried to work with children with dyslexia, I’d be better at it than your average Joe, but it would still probably take a lot of reading and especially a lot of experience with trial and error for me to become somewhat proficient at that. You can’t throw even a smart and motivated new teacher into a teaching job with no guidance and mentoring and expect that she’ll perform the same as a 5-year teacher. I have repeatedly read on this blog that if you try to do that with a new teacher, you will have a very bad year, and very likely the teacher will quit. Well, wouldn’t that be all the more true when the “new” teacher is a 6 year-old, or a 9-year-old, or a 13-year-old? It’s kind of ironic: if you think of teaching as itself a talent, an art, a science, then you have to remember that the same is true for the mini-teachers who are your involuntary (or in your case and to your credit, voluntary) recruits. You can’t just wave your arms and say, “teaching solidifies and deepens learning”; you have to give thought to whether *this* teaching experience for this child will solidify and deepen his understanding, or result in extreme frustration and boredom or a feeling or incompetence. You can’t just wave your arms and say “teaching demonstrates mastery”, unless you are willing to stake your own reputation as someone who has “mastered” a content subject on whether each and every one of your students successfully grasps what you try to teach him.

“I only use volunteers of course and speak with their parents ahead of time.”

That is very unusual, I think. I have never heard of a teacher doing this. I suppose you might want to think about the possibility that parents or students might not feel free to say “no” without recourse, but in truth, I have to say that if you are putting this much planning and effort into your peer tutoring, then you probably are doing a good job with it. In the situations where I have heard parents complain about these issues, the teacher was not doing anything remotely like this.

Maybe it’s hard for the two of you to recognize, if you’re doing a good job consciously using peer tutoring to the benefit of both students, but the parents who complain to me about their child being repeatedly exploited are clearly not talking about what you’re doing. (I actually haven’t had this particular problem yet, though I’ve experienced different types of neglect on the part of the educational system geared for the “average” child. As a child, I was always thrilled when a teacher allowed me to read my own book, rather than pay attention to a lesson or complete busywork in an area where I was way ahead; at least my time wasn’t being wasted, and I wasn’t bored. My own daughter is similarly happy when her teachers allow her to read her own book, or grade (multiple choice, with a key) tests of fellow students (do you think that is solidifying learning? I’m thinking not so much). It’s only as an adult that I realize how far from ideal repeated use of these non-strategies for dealing with large learning differences within a classroom is. It’s kind of sad that one of the teachers I remember with great affection is one who let me read a book during an entire math class (equivalent to a whole year of Algebra II).)

“It has fostered relations between clicks”

Maybe, maybe not. I think it could foster better relationships or worse relationships between individuals or cliques, just as making an older sibling responsible for a younger sibling can foster better relationships or worse relationships between the siblings. Consider this: all of the same arguments that teachers (with some justification, I think) invoke about the difficulty of teaching “undisciplined” kids, “unmotivated” kids, kids who are barely able to pay attention because they are sleep-deprived, stressed, etc., are true ten-fold for a child attempting to teach kids his own age, kids over whom he has no actual authority and probably no perceived authority either. (By contrast, I had some experience, both in elementary school, and then in high school, as a volunteer in an elementary school classroom during the school day, teaching kids 3 to 8 years younger than I, reading and math; those experiences were fun and somewhat beneficial to me, I think.)

“If that is truly the case, someone at that school does not understand differentiation.”

Um, yeah.

Or doesn’t have skills or time for extreme amounts of differentiation in the current school environment.

Brandy, remind me again what school system you teach in?

I have a friend who does teacher training programs in differentiation, and he says that virtually nowhere are teachers adequately trained for differentiation. (And I will add my view that high demands for differentiation require high levels of intelligence, creativity, and flexibility (and the kind of working conditions that permit these traits and skills to be exercised, working conditions I haven’t seen int the public schools too mcuh), as well as lots and lots of practice and experience (probably mentoring too?).)

“In the real world, we have to work with people of all stripes, talents, aptitudes, and attitudes, your child is getting an opportunity to learn how to navigate such waters effectively. School isn’t just about learning the content; it is also about learning the social skills, mores, and coping mechanisms that are required for life outside of school.”

As I said, to my knowledge, my own children haven’t been drafted for exploitative forms of “tutoring” (nor was I as a student), so on that particular issue, I am speaking more about the experience of others, including the experience reported in comments to this blog by parents who seem observant regarding their children’s educational experience.

I do agree that school isn’t just about learning content, which is a darn good thing, since in many classes, many years, my child has not learned any content. And yes, I frequently have to advocate for my children, or make decisions for my children, that weigh whether 7 or 9 hours a day devoted to “school” that is primarily learning “coping mechanisms” in social situations is a worthwhile balance.

[From a related point on another thread - this by the way, was the comment that was distressing enough to me to get me to post on this thread]
“have you considered using this as a teachable moment in tolerance, in compassion, and in the real world? How many times in the real world are workers paired up with slackers or others who aren’t prepared? It happens every single day and yet the bright and eager ones still have to do their best and (generally) have to pick up the slack. It sucks, but that’s real life.”

We have, fortunately, not yet much encountered the problem of the group projects in which one conscientious student is required to do all of the work. As far as “real life”, well, it only has to be your “real life” if you choose for it to be so. What I would do in my job if I were repeatedly made responsible for the failures of slackers whom I had no control over, would to be find another job. What preparation do you think being repeatedly put in this position by the supposedly responsible adults teaches the kids unjustly treated? That life is unfair? I wouldn’t be proud of being part of school system whose goal is to teach that lesson. (In truth, I think no system, teacher, or parent need ever purposely teach that lesson; there will inevitably by enough unfairness, whether unintentional, or intentional, on the part of others whom we can’t control, that those of us who value just and respectful interactions between people don’t need to purposely expose children to unfairness.) And consider this, from a systemic perspective: in addition to intentionally teaching the hard-working kid that life isn’t fair and he will have to do all of the work for slackers, what do you think you’re teaching the slacker kids?!

So anyway, hopefully I’ve made clear that I agree that teaching is one way to solidify and deepen learning (though not all people we consider “learned” in one field or another are necessarily good teachers, I think). I think occasional use of videos or computer games at school can also be beneficial. But these things can also be misused – overly relied on without careful consideration and weighing of the potential benefits and potential harms to specific kids. I think that kids can probably learn a lot from teaching other kids, even from teaching same-age peers in the right circumstances (I don’t think it’s appropriate to have children discipline same-age peers, though). I don’t think that for the typical teacher it’s a time-saving technique, though, not if the teacher takes the time to make good decisions about what will benefit both students. If you, as a teacher, have the intelligence and the time to do a good job with this technique, I’m on board. If not, if it’s going to cause too much frustration, boredom, and sense of incompetence in the tutor child (or worse, if his social skills in interacting with same-age peers in what could be perceived as a hierarchical fashion, are not up to the job – “LOL”), then please, just let him read a book instead, and we can all stop pretending that he is being educated by the system.

My post was really responding to the disconnect between saying that leaving for other schools (and taking the pro rata or less dollars with one) benefits the select few at the “expense of the many.” If you, as a teacher, can show a parent that a child is significantly benefiting from doing some tutoring of other students, then bravo (brava to Brandy); the family should stay. If that’s not what’s actually happening, though, if the family does not perceive an education benefit to the child (broadly defined to include appropriate social learning) and chooses to leave traditional public schools, then I don’t agree that pulling pne’s child from an exploitative environment (or more likely, a poor learning environment for *all*, because I tend to think that if the “teaching” child isn’t being challenged and engaged as well, then he’s probably not a very good teacher for the child he’s suposed to be teaching either) is benefiting him at the “expense of many”, any more than a teacher to work for free is benefiting him at the “expense of many”. Teaching can solidify learning, but we don’t ask teachers to teach for free.

C Jae of EAV

May 3rd, 2012
12:23 pm

@Mary Elizabeth 05/02 5:38pm – In my experience, the lack of cooperation cited in your comment, “I do not want my taxes going to pay for state commissioned charter schools that do not intend to work cooperatively with local school boards.”, is primarily driven by local school boards who immediately assume fierce adversarial positions at the hint of any charter school petition submission! Even in cases where local boards are the authorizing party responsible for APPROVING the charter petition, the adversarial posture tends to perpetuates itself throughout the lifecycle existance of the charter institution.

I’ve observed the lack of collaborative effort is less the result of obstinate charter school petitioners and more a consequence of local boards who as noted are unmittigatedly jockying for power and money. Indeed this concern overall continues to be obfuscated in such a manner that it restricts our collective ability to critically challenge policy positions no matter from what side of the issue they may come from.

You beliefs with regard to the “public school reform/choice” movement in-flux across GA have been well noted on this blog. Quite frankly, I share a good number of them. However, I am one who is looking for some balance in your viewpoints that equally acknowledges the short-comings of the status-quo governance approach employed by many local boards across the state which has little to do with increasing the quality of educational outcomes for students and has everything to do with allowing entrenched edu-crats across this state to maintain their kabal with little opposition from the people whose lives they directly impact. As long as we continue to paint this as a one-way issue that suggests the practical governance exercised by local boards (as well as the district central offices that support them) are without shortcoming then IMHO we miss real opportunities to bring about progressive change to impact academic outcomes