The purpose of education: the three E’s

 

I have heard it said that the purpose of education in IPS should ultimately result in one of the three E’s:

Enrollment

Enlistment

Employment

I want to offer three alternative E’s for your consideration:

Emancipation

Enlightenment

Empowerment

Let us consider the differences between education in different settings.  The elite private schools of Indianapolis certainly don’t offer up “enrollment, enlistment, and employment” as the purposes for the education that they are offering their students.  In fact, one website I visited  included three C’s in their vision: curiosity, compassion, and courage.  It is just me, or are there radically different connotations to each of those lists of words?  Yep.  Enrollment, enlistment, and employment should not be the end game here.  Being enrolled, enlisted, or employed should be natural byproducts of an education that honors and inspires the whole child…a child who is:

EMANCIPATED:  has realized that his current socioeconomic status and/or identity is not predictive of or limiting his future possibilities.

ENLIGHTENED: has been exposed to a wide variety of curricula, activities, and interests, can apply that information to her current circumstance, and is inspired to pursue further learning on topics of her choosing.

EMPOWERED: has realized that his locus of control lies within himself, takes his resources into account and knows when to use them, demonstrates responsibility and self-determination.

Allow me to offer a couple of scenarios for your consideration:

School A students wait outside or on the bus until the bell rings.  Once allowed inside, they walk with bubbles in their mouths and their arms crossed in hallway hugs on the right side of the hallway, using the red tape line as a guide, with absolutely no talking.  They arrive at their classroom, and are greeted by an under-appreciated, underpaid and overworked teacher, who (in some cases) loves them anyway, and are doing the absolute best they can despite the current conditions.  School A student sits at their desk, quietly doing bell work.  Their day consists of a math block, a reading block (typically with basal readers and pre-made worksheets), and Science or Social Studies if it’s in a grade where it’s tested on ISTEP, and when there is time in the day for it.  The Indiana Academic Standards are posted on the wall so we always know which ones we are currently working on, and because there will be a test soon.  There is always an upcoming test; quizzes, benchmarks, I-READS, I-STEPS.  Student A gets gym twice a week, Music twice a week, and Art on a cart or library once a week.  She gets the same lunch as everyone else, whether kindergarten or high school athlete.  She sits down at the long cafeteria table, next to the kid in line according to alphabetical order.  Sometimes she has to sit in silence with the lights out at lunch, while a stressed out adult yells at them through a microphone to be quiet.  If she talks, she get after school detention.

A student from school B arrives at school early to go and speak with his favorite teacher before class starts.  There are no bells, but student B knows when it’s time to head to homeroom because he can hear the happy chatter of students in the halls.  Teachers throughout the halls are standing at their doors, smiling, and greeting students.  Student B enters the classroom and gets ready for his discussion in circle time.  He knows he will have to plan his day of learning, and his teacher guides him in planning to make choices throughout the day, such as where to sit, how to see the best in his (sometimes annoying) classmates, which books to read, which topics to write about, which centers to visit during math workshop.  When his friend helps him to discover grouping pumpkin seeds by ten to count rather than counting by ones, his teacher notes his success and celebrates by asking the class to stop and watch his demonstration.  At lunch, he sits outside in the spring air with a chosen group of friends but plans to visit the library during lunch tomorrow. In the afternoon, he has a disagreement with a peer that wouldn’t leave him alone.  He had to set aside time to attend a peace mediation session with his teacher, and everything is back to normal now – which is great, because the best part of his day is going to the Environmental Club after school.

As you think about the differences in the vignettes from school A vs. school B, please consider the following:
  • What organizational differences in these two settings are creating such a vast gap in the learning experiences of students?  What is the “work” culture of these two districts?  What policies are in place to set these conditions?  What role might standardized testing play?  How might the concept of accountability be experienced differently in school A vs. school B?
  • What do you think the adults in school A are doing differently than the adults in school B?
  • Trick question: which school has the highest paid outside consultants? (Hint: it’s not the one you might think.)
  • Which school offers more individual freedom?  What are the consequences of allowing students to make authentic choices, both negative and positive? (dare I say it, student AUTONOMY?)
  • How might the opportunity to make decisions in school affect a student’s learning…after all, isn’t LIFE about the ability for people to make sound decisions for themselves?
  • Over 12 years of schooling, what cumulative effects can we expect on human lives?  In other words, which set of three E’s is school A preparing students for?  School B?
  • Which school is designed to produce leaders and innovators?  Which school is designed to produce worker bees?  Does either school encourage the questioning of authority, or the status quo? Is this by design?
  • Does student A DESERVE different treatment than student B, based on an ability to pay for a private school education?  To what extent (if any) can a public school offer a private school education (or a semblance of it)?
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For the first time ever, I am allowing comments on this blog thread.  Responses are moderated, and idiocy of any kind is not tolerated.  Let’s discuss the questions above, and the general idea of the PURPOSE of education, public, charter, and private.  If your comments do not get posted, it’s because you did not give input to the questions.  Or you were inappropriate. Don’t take it personal…
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Do you want to share the story of what is going on in your Indianapolis school?  I am inviting teachers, school staff and students to write about their experiences, good and bad, to be shared anonymously (or not, you choose) on my blog.  Please email submissions to: gayle_cosby@yahoo.com
These thoughts are my own and do not reflect IPS or any other entity.  I assume no responsibility for the comments of others on this blog or in any other format.

 

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There was a letter of support posted on the Indy Star website today:

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I’m honored and proud to be a commissioner for Indianapolis Public Schools. To me, that title carries the weight and responsibility of representing an entire community. I received over 12,000 votes in 2012. Those constituents combined with the roughly 28,000 students in IPS schools gives me ~40,000 reasons to continue advocating for a free, public, high quality education. Without a doubt, there are many changes that could improve IPS…and we have countless talented, dedicated staff that can help us realize those changes. Freedom to innovate at all levels is important and can be achieved from within the IPS district, it does not require contracting with outside organizations in order to run our schools. It is a fallacy to propose that innovation requires anything other than the will and desire to make it happen. I call on all parents and community members to continue advocating for positive reforms that originate from the local educators within our district – rather than to continue to spend money in contracting with outside organizations who may or may not understand our communities and what our children need. Every dollar going to an outside contract is a dollar not spent in a classroom. Thanks for the community support, especially to the author, Nanci Lacy, for her letter to the IndyStar.

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“Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”  Just a thought…maybe, if there are lots of people who feel this way, and we all bring our candles together…we can see our way out of this mess! #weareamosbrown

My thoughts are my own.  email me at: gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

STAND for something, fall for anything??

I came across this little gem in the Indy Star:
STANDletter
I suppose that I am the one cautious board member that is named in this letter.  So, allow me to address your concerns.  For the record, as a former IPS teacher, I have seen firsthand the “failure” that you speak of, and share some of your frustration. I am also currently an IPS parent. My child attends a school which will likely be rated a D or an F this year (if you care about that sort of thing, given the current state of standardized testing/ISTEP).  However, the devil of “innovation” is in the details. The dissent that I offer on the board in regard to innovation schools is because: I believe in equitable access to a free public education, and I do not believe that parceling out our public school system to become a loosely associated chain of charter organizations that have contracts with IPS is in the best interests of children.  Do you realize that when Phalen Academy was given a contract to run school 103, they got upwards of $3 million dollars to do so?  That money has to come from somewhere…and as we create more and more of these “innovation partnerships”, we are siphoning valuable and extremely limited resources from the very D and F schools that you speak of. 
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not only about the money – understand that these partnerships are with corporations (non-profit or otherwise) – so when you have a concern, you do not have an elected official (such as myself) to represent the people.  You will be taking your chances with a privately appointed board who is tasked with running the day to day operations of the school.  Good luck signing up to delegate there.
Reason #456 on my list is because: people will undoubtedly lose their jobs. As private organizations take over, they do have the right to hire their own teachers.  Frequently at lower pay.  There will be layoffs of teachers.  These organizations also have the right to contract out any services they desire – including janitorial (bye bye, IPS custodians), food services, bus drivers – you name it, it will no longer be a secure source of employment for our community members with stable pay and benefits.  It will be McBusDrivers Incorporated sending folks from out of town that don’t know how to navigate Indianapolis that will be driving your kids around for minimum wage and no health insurance.
Reason #992: Have you checked the performance of most Indianapolis charter schools lately?  They fare no better than IPS.
Don’t believe the hype – innovation is possible without privatizing our public school system.  Look at Project Restore, which is a model in place at schools 99, 88, and 93.  It is a homegrown IPS concept that has been very successful – and it doesn’t need a contract, millions being given to an outside organization/board of directors in order to make it happen.  Those schools are given the latitude needed to increase student achievement, and it works.  Let’s think critically about how to really improve our school system without fragmenting and reducing it to a binder full of  $$ contracts.  I applaud your advocacy for your children, but you need to ask some hard questions.  What is the real agenda of Stand for Children?  Why have they thrown hundreds of thousands of dollars into getting IPS board members elected, including myself?  Why aren’t they putting that money toward helping IPS develop more innovative homegrown programs like Project Restore, and making them available to other schools, MINUS the middlemen with their hands out?? Are you getting the whole story?
My thoughts are, obviously, my own.
Email me if you’d like: gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

Who are IPS’s magnet schools supposed to attract??

As I outlined in my previous post Black Lives Matter, based on data taken directly from the Indiana Department of Education’s website, the IPS district has an overall black enrollment of 50%, a white enrollment of 20%, Hispanic enrollment of 23% (although that is technically not a race, but an ethnicity).

However, certain magnet programs in certain neighborhoods seem to have enrollments of white students that are disproportionate in relation to the numbers above – in particular, the highly popular Center for Inquiry (CFI) magnet programs.

There are currently three CFI schools:

CFI downtown at 725 N New Jersey……67% WHITE, 14% BLACK

CFI Meridian Kessler at 440 E. 57th…….82% WHITE, 7% BLACK

CFI in King Park/Fall Creek 545 E. 19th…….35% WHITE, 46% BLACK

(All data obtained from Indiana Dept. of Ed. Compass website)

Keeping the above demographic information in mind, why is the IPS administration proposing the addition of a fourth CFI school to be located at school 70, currently a performing arts magnet school at 510 E. 46th Street, about a mile away from the CFI school already existing in the Meridian Kessler area?  School 70’s student body is currently comprised of 75% BLACK students.  The entire school/student body of the existing school 70 will be moved to the Key School located at 777 S. White River Pkwy West Dr.  In order to make all of this possible, the students that are attending the Key school currently (69% BLACK) will have to find a new school – because the Key School program, a longstanding (20+ years) program based on Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, will be CLOSED.

The most damning part about ALL of this??  The parents at all of the affected schools will not have a chance to discuss until AFTER the board votes.  The parents at each school are not scheduled to be officially informed by the IPS administration until the first week of November.  The vote will be taken on October 29th at the Action Session, 6pm, 120 E. Walnut St.

On the Amos Brown show on Friday, October 23, IPS Superintendent stated that the reason that the school 70 location was chosen was because most of the kids on the CFI waiting list live nearer to school 70.  However, a map made public by IPS showing the distribution of all kids on the CFI waiting list simply does not corroborate that statement:

map8

To quote Amos Brown’s assessment of the distribution shown by the map, “Of the students on CFI’s waiting list who live in IPS, but 25% live in the Butler-Tarkington, Meridian/kessler or Broad Ripple neighborhoods. Some 37% live south of 10th and 16th Street. A figure that rises to 64% when you include students wanting to attend a CFI who live between 38th and 10th and 16th Streets. Just a quarter of the so-called demand for CFI lives in the so called priority northside areas IPS seems to be catering to. In fact looking at the a chart of where School 70 and where CFIs waiting list students live, it make a strong case for putting a fourth CFI school at the Key School location just south of downtown.”  (Excerpt from Amos Brown – 1310 Podcast)

In fact, before Amos aired this particular show, I made that exact same suggestion – why not put the new CFI at the Key School location?  My suggestion was summarily dismissed.

Why does it appear that the black community of Indianapolis is getting the short end of the educational stick…time and time again??  Even though black students comprise 50% (the majority) of the total student body of the IPS district?

About a year ago in 2014, we saw a similar “building grab” when Gambold (the IB High school which these CFI programs feed into) displaced a program and its student body at the prestigious and historical Shortridge High School.  The reason?  The principal stated that he was not getting good parental involvement out on the far west side.  He needed a building that was more “centrally located”.

In my opinion, there appears to be a pattern developing here.  School buildings that are located in middle to upper class (especially north side or gentrifying neighborhoods such as Fall Creek) can be given the boot at any time to make way for a school that serves predominantly white students.

Another significant root to this problem lies in the way that applications for admission to magnet programs are honored.  There is a tiered system of preference in place that dictates how students are placed into the magnet schools they’ve applied for:

magnet lottery logic

As you can see, the siblings of already existing students get first dibs on the available seats.  Second dibs go to those families that live with a mile radius of the school (although there is an argument about whether to draw that circle in even closer to the school).  Proposed for a vote next week is a third tier which would give preference to families who have been on a waiting list for multiple years and never gotten into their school of choice.  The fourth tier of preference refers to the school’s geographic boundaries (different from the smaller proximity circle).  The fifth and final tier of preference goes to children of IPS employees – and in the case of the Butler Lab School and Shortridge High School – preference to children of Butler University employees.  Only after all of these preferences are met will the magnet lottery consider admitting students from the wider, general pool of applications.

After reviewing the current board policy on student assignment to magnet programs, I found an interesting point that needs to be brought to light:

5. The Superintendent shall evaluate the extent to which the applicant pool for each magnet and option program reflects the diversity of the District as a whole. If an identifiable group of students is substantially under-represented in the applicant pool for any magnet or option program, the Superintendent shall direct targeted recruiting of applicants from the under-represented group before the random selection process begins.

As demonstrated above, the student bodies of CFI are not in proportion with the overall demographics of the district.  This board member wonders the extent to which this policy directive has been carried out, or will be carried out, in order to seek more integration in our magnet programs.  However, it is worth noting that this would only apply prior to the random selection process, which I assume would mean AFTER the application of all of the tiers outlined above.

Would you like to weigh in on this topic at the meeting next week?  The board is scheduled to have a briefing session on Tuesday, October 27th at 6pm, in which discussion will take place on the agenda items.  On Thursday, October 29th at 6pm, the board will vote on (but not really discuss) the agenda items.  The public has the right to sign up to delegate (speak for 3 minutes) on any topic on the agenda, or offer general comments.  Worth noting is the fact that Thursday’s action meeting is televised, but Tuesday’s briefing is not.  You can sign up by filling out the form at this link:

http://www.myips.org//cms/module/selectsurvey/TakeSurvey.aspx?SurveyID=267

Alternatively, you can sign up by calling 226-4418.

Do you have questions or comments for me directly?  Email me at gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

In an attempt to end on a good note:

In other (national) news, it appears that we will soon be seeing an end to the era of “high-stakes” testing, with Obama’s goal being established that no more than 2% of classroom time be used in taking tests : http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/10/24/obama-schools-test/74536886/

Have you subscribed to my blog yet? You will be notified by email when a new blog comes out. You can do so by clicking the tab in the lower right hand corner of your screen.  Watch for my next blog – it’s gonna be a doozy!!

Autonomy for Automatons 101

There is an IPS ad-hoc committee meeting to discuss ‘autonomy’ Friday, July 3rd, 1pm, in the board room.

I have come to hate the word autonomy when it is used in the context of education.  Why?

Quite simply, because it is the most overplayed word in the world of “ed reformers”.  Maybe Indianapolis ed reformers, especially.

Everyone reading this blog probably knows how language can be carefully massaged and crafted until it means something entirely agenda-specific.  This is precisely what has happened to the word, and the concept, of school autonomy.

Let me explain.

On the face of it, the concept of school autonomy is a very promising one.  So promising, in fact, that I used the word quite a bit in my 2012 campaign to describe a utopian ideal where teachers, principals, students, parents (AKA the school community) had a great deal more influence over…everything.  Staffing, Curriculum, Title I Funding – to name a few.  To me, the word autonomy connoted a school community freed from many of the top-down processes of the bloated IPS central office.  Sounds pretty good, right?  I thought so.

As time has passed and I’ve gained experience in my role as a commissioner, I’ve come to learn that autonomy is really a code word for something much darker and more sinister.  The word has gradually been co-opted.  Instead of reflecting a wide variety of options that could be weighed carefully and selected based on what suits our city’s needs, the ed-reformers in this city use the word ‘autonomy’ to refer to anything associated with the PORTFOLIO SCHOOL MODEL, which is the true agenda of the current IPS board majority.

THE PORTFOLIO SCHOOL MODEL is the brainchild of the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), run by Paul T. Hill – whose educational background is in political science, not education.

Since the current board majority and administration have been doing the bidding of the powers-that-be in Indianapolis, the Portfolio School Model has already begun to be implemented here in IPS, despite the fact that true discussions on “autonomy” have not taken place yet (The first meeting of the ad-hoc committee takes place Friday, July 3rd at 1:00pm at the Ed Center.  Yes, it is an IPS holiday.  I know, crazy, right?)   Here is proof from the CRPE website that the portfolio model is already being implemented in our city, without any input from IPS stakeholders whatsoever:

CRPEportfolioprogress

And this, from a CRPE white paper:  CRPEportfolionetwork

Dear constituent (taxpayer, parent, teacher, student, resident of Indy)…do you see this as a problem?  The utter foundation of public schooling as you know it is being shifted without your knowledge, let alone your input.  Remember in my last blog post when I shared with you that “the citizens of the District are to be viewed as the ownership and clients of IPS, to whom the Board is primarily responsible and for whom the Board acts”?  This comes directly from IPS policy, and I am giving you a direct example of a violation of that policy.

Google ‘Portfolio Schools’, look beyond the barrage of CRPE links, and read for yourself how this has played out in the network of cities mentioned above.  There are plenty of examples like this article about Philly.
The Portfolio Model operates on the premise that a free market approach will “weed out” lower performing schools by replacing them with private options – whether they be for-profit or non-for-profit charter schools or vouchers.

Kenneth Saltman of the National Education Policy Center (2010) has conducted research on the portfolio school model and this is his conclusion:

Although the strategy is being advocated by some policy centers, implemented by
some large urban districts, and promoted by the education reforms proposed as
part of the Obama administrations Race to the Top initiative, no peer-reviewed
 studies of portfolio districts exist, meaning that no reliable empirical evidence
about portfolio effects is available that supports either the implementation or rejection
of the portfolio district reform model.
Nor is such evidence likely to be forthcoming.
Even advocates acknowledge the enormous difficulty of designing credible
empirical studies to determine how the portfolio approach affects
student achievement and other outcomes. There are anecdotal reports
of achievement gains in one portfolio district, New Orleans. The New Orleans results,
however, have been subjected to serious challenge. Extrapolation of research on the
constituent elements of the model is not helpful because of the complex interactions
of these elements within the portfolio model.
Moreover, even when the constituent elements are considered as a way to predict the
likely success of the model, no evidence is found to suggest that
it will produce gains in either achievement or fiscal efficiency. Finally, the policy writing
of supporters of the portfolio model suggests that the approach is expensive to implement
and may have negative effects on student achievement.
In light of these considerations, it is recommended that policymakers and administrators
use caution in considering the portfolio district approach. It is also highly
recommended that before adopting such a strategy, decision makers ask the following questions:
What credible evidence do we have, or can we obtain, that suggests the
portfolio model offers advantages compared to other reform models?
What would those advantages be, when might they be expected to materialize, and how
might they be documented?
If constituent elements of the model (such as charter schools and test
based accountability) have not produced advantages outside of portfolio systems, what
is the rationale for expecting improved outcomes as part of a portfolio system?
What funding will be needed for startup, and where will it come from?
What funding will be necessary for maintenance of the model?
Where will continuation funds come from if startup funds expire and are not renewed?
How will the cost/benefit ratio of the model be determined?
What potential political and social conflicts seem possible?
How will concerns of dissenting constituents be addressed?
If you find these truths to be unsettling, I would urge you to print of this list of questions, and attend the IPS ad-hoc “autonomy” committee on Friday, July 3rd, at 1:00 pm.  It will be held in the IPS board room at 120 E. Walnut.  Be prepared to hear the Portfolio Model packaged very beautifully, like a gift you can’t wait to open, with a bow and everything.  You’ll have to be very discerning to hear the elements of school privatization woven oh-so-carefully into the conversation, but it will be there.  You won’t get to speak…yet.  But your time will come.
The truths expressed here are as I see them, are mine alone, and do not reflect the views of any organization officially.
If you’re as concerned as I am, please email me at: gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

(non)democracy at work

Dear constituent,

On May 28th, 2015, in a live-television broadcast it was announced that the AUTONOMY issue, which the entire board had previously had a Sunday afternoon meeting about (dubbed weird, unusual, and a travesty by the media) was going to be DEFINED by a newly-created ad-hoc commitee which only consisted of two board members, two members of administration, and others.  This is especially concerning because it allows for the circumvention of the open door law.  When less than four (majority) of board members meet, then those meetings are not required to be held in public!  I was livid upon hearing this annoucement read on live television without any prior knowledge of this plan.  To make matters worse, the annoucement was read from a prepared written statement announcing pre-selected members of a committee which had clearly taken time to deliberate upon and then craft a statement.    However, I was never given any information about it prior to it being announced at the meeting.  Further, the ad-hoc commitee plan was intentionally revealed at a place in the agenda which did not allow for board member commentary.  When I attempted to make comments about the utter lack of transparency involved in this clandestine assignment of responsibilities, attempts were made to silence my voice.

It’s important that you know.  If you live in IPS district 2, your representation on the Indianapolis Public School board is being marginalized.   If I am not able to speak on issues, then I am not able to represent my people.

The issue of defining autonomy is of such magnitude that it will affect every single decision made going forward.  I believe that every single board member should have input on this critical matter, and I have advocated for the entire board to take on the task of defining autonomy TOGETHER.  It is the collective responsibility of the entire board to chart the course for the future of the district – however this important decision now rests in the hands of only a select few.

 

atifete

My views are my own.  Holla if ya hear me: gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

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