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.

 

State of the “Maverick” Address

I don’t care what a lot of people think (especially those who perceive themselves to be in power).

However, I do care deeply about my community.

For this reason, I have decided to announce early my decision to not seek re-election to the IPS school board.  I want to give my community as much lead time as possible to prepare viable, strong candidate(s) ready to compete for the district 2 seat this November.

Some of you might be wondering why I have chosen this path.

In an attempt to further understand some of the crazy political maneuvering I’ve seen thus far in education, last year I began the journey to obtain a Ph.D. in Urban Education Studies.  This degree will further enable my advocacy work toward education for liberation.

I’ve always been an ambitious person, but folks, I am human.  It’s been a delicate balancing act to juggle the roles of mother, wife, doctoral student, employee, and commissioner.  I cannot reasonably expect myself to be able to devote adequate time and energy to all of these demanding and highly important roles for the duration of another 4 year term.  Not to mention the short-term trajectory of my doctoral work will include writing a dissertation and the eventual possibility of relocation as I settle into the profession.  Therefore, it’s time for someone else from district 2 to prepare to represent us.

I fully intend to complete the final year of my elected term by continuing to advocate for my community.

I have a few things on my mind as I move into the last year of my elected term.

  1. Increase the presence of student voice in policy making.

Other school boards hold regular meetings with the student government bodies from their high schools, or they implement a process for forming *some* type of student advisory council, and a regular meeting schedule. Student voice is incredibly important.  It teaches students to think critically about their education, and forces them to employ different skill sets to achieve their desired outcome.  It can lay the foundation for future civic engagement.  Aren’t students the reason why we’re here?  Don’t we need to figure out what they want?  Would it be so much to give them some of what they want?  A little happiness at school can go a long way toward keeping our students invested and engaged in their education.

 

  1. Parents, families and the community deserve autonomy also.

It makes me cringe every time a school community is informed of something that has been imposed on them: a school closing or relocation, a new model, so on and so forth.  In my opinion this should never, ever be the case.  Why?  Because parents, families and the school community should be given the opportunity to engage in driving those decisions before they are made.  I’m not talking about forced last-minute choices, either.  I’m talking about real community education and informed dialogue.  If the school community is involved to this degree, proactively, then there are no surprises.  In 2013 a policy was enacted that allowed for a diverse group of school stakeholders (parents, teachers, community members) to serve as a principal selection committee.  Are stakeholder groups still invited to the table to weigh in on these decisions?

 

  1. Innovation partnerships merit more careful consideration.

Did I ever share with you that my oldest graduated from a charter school and my middle child currently attends one?  They are both locally owned charters.  I don’t have anything against local charter schools, per se.  [CAVEATS: In a perfect world traditional public schools would be well funded and freed from the destructive patterns caused by standardized testing.  If that were the case, there would be no reason or opportunity for charter school competition.  However, charter schools do exist – I therefore prefer homegrown charter schools that don’t seem to have profit motive at the forefront.]  There are also some charter school “chains” that have promising ideals, located in cities outside Indy.  Our communities need to be educated on differing types of charters and be involved in the decision making for potential partnerships.  Since it is school performance that everyone is judging, then it would make complete sense for us to judge a potential charter school partner by its past performance.  Also, demand to see the number$.  A precedent has been established that appears to favor the charter school partner – see the details HERE.  Can this type of investment in outside partnerships be sustained year after year?  For how many years? How will these expenditures affect the school budgets of children in traditional schools as innovation schools expand?  How will potential outsourcing of many Indianapolis residents’ jobs (transportation, custodial, food service) affect our communities?

 

I don’t think that I am the only person who thinks that (at least some of) these are priorities or concerns.  As evidence of this, the Core Commitments reflect some of this language. Anyhow, whether I think they are important or not is pretty irrelevant.  I am just one lone dissenter on a board with an established supermajority.  If anything at all takes place, you won’t see me taking credit for any of it.  I’m not in a position to DO anything at all…which brings me to my last question.  Being that I am only one vote, and have absolutely no chances of affecting the future course of anything, why does my dissenting voice bother anyone?  In the interest of democracy, why is there such a fuss when I simply want to speak to my convictions?   Why is diversity of thought viewed as a hindrance rather than a strength?   Why is it so desirable to have 100% total agreement on a publicly elected board?

My thoughts represented on this site are my own free speech.  This blog is a personal publication.  I don’t represent anyone or anything other than myself.

You can email me by clicking this link: gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

thanks

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

Titan up… No. Really.

Tech student speaks before board and gets chastised by principal and administrator.

Yesterday evening I missed a thoughtful delegation from a Tech high school senior.  I always have mixed emotions when a student comes before the board.  My heart swells with pride for their courage, yet sadness usually multiplies with each word they speak.  Why?  Because I know why they’ve come.  They come when their school is being closed, or when they feel disenfranchised by the very institution that is supposed to enrich their lives.  I also worry whenever a student says something that might be cause for retribution. Since this delegation is now public record, I feel compelled to share it with you:

Hello my name is Chris. I am a Student at Arsenal
Technical High school. I am here before you to express my Frustration with the changes that came to Arsenal Technical High School this year.
The first thing I would like to bring up is the new administration. This
by itself has caused many conflicts between the students and teachers
because of the lack of effort and discipline in and on the school’s campus.
From the start of school on August 3, 2015 to today I have only seen the new administrative principal three times. This is a cause for concern because I distinctly remember the new principal said that we would be seeing more of the new administration on campus to:
1. Try and establish relations with the student body.
2. Also to grow more acquainted with the campus.
The second is the new disciplinary guidelines that were implemented in the k-12 system for IPS applied to Arsenal Technical High School does not seem to be effective. The students are taking advantage of it. There have been more fights at Arsenal Technical High School this year alone than in the three years I’ve been at this school. That being said the classroom is no better. Teachers spend more time redirecting kids than teaching. This has lead teachers to become almost unresponsive to what any student really needs in their education.
The Third thing is that some decisions have been made around the
school that have made a lot of students not even want to attend Arsenal Technical High School. These changes consist of pushing back the time students get off the bus. Approximately 2,000 students accumulate into the cafeteria which only leaves the students ten minutes to get food, eat, and then go to first period. It also creates a situation for a fire hazard. Also having teachers patrol the halls on their prep. I say this because in the past teachers used this time to allow students to make up tests, turn in work, and get extra help for the grades that we need. I myself can’t stress enough how much we need these grades.
Another thing is that the new principal made the decision to close the
library to the students. Making this decision has puzzled many people for this reason: It is the one place where kid actually go for studying, lunch, and to check out books. The library is the most calm environment on campus, but now that it’s closed the student that use this resource are now deprived of it usefulness. Its also the one place where student know they won’t get hit by a flying milk.
This last statement might be the most concerning of all. At the end of
the day during the 11th period, the administration has all of the buildings on campus locked up. This means that any student that was requested to either see a counselor or any other adult figure on campus can’t go back to class.
So inevitably it causes those students to then be on campus where they are most vulnerable. I only say this because the only cameras that are recording the campus are unreliable, and are a false sense of security. For not just the students, but also the staff that you yourselves employ.
I would like the board to think about what I had to say and hopefully make changes needed for the success of all at Arsenal Technical High School. I wish to see the teachers and students leave this school at the best it could be for they have made my experience at Arsenal Technical High school most successful and exciting.

Dear Chris,

First of all, thank you for your comments to the board. I admire your courage.  I believe that you are setting an excellent example for your fellow students. Maybe if the entire district was filled with students a little more like you, who made their voices heard, IPS would be a better place.  You see, a lot of adults who run things around IPS think that adults know best, and they go around talking about how to give those adults more autonomy to do what they think is best.  I happen to know that if you believe in your students, and you give them autonomy, they end up doing some freaking amazing things…like actually regulating themselves in very responsible ways.  I’ve been in a high school where there were no bells, and where students were allowed to get up and leave class if they needed to visit a counselor or administrator.  Guess what?  Contrary to what many adults might believe, those students did not abuse their privileges.  They changed classes when it was time and excused themselves from class as necessary to go visit adults that they needed to see.  I think this is an example that could be applied to your ability to go and eat breakfast, and to go visit the library.  Some isolated incidents that might have prompted these changes should not be applied to the ENTIRE STUDENT BODY.  I am a Tech alum, and I happen to know that library has been open to students for decades.  The actions of a few should not have such an impact, especially in an academic environment where we should be promoting literacy and appropriate technology usage to students who may not have access outside of school.

Secondly, Chris – the manner in which you were called into the office to discuss your delegation to the board is really inappropriate.  I am appalled at the response that you have received from your principal and district officials.  Any self-respecting educator would have appreciated your advocacy – not only for yourself but for your fellow Titans.  Instead, you were met with hostility.  You were not allowed to speak your truth.  You were constantly interrupted and they attempted to make you feel shame for going to the board, and silence you.  When you asked to leave, they would not allow you to leave, but forced you to sit and take even more verbal abuse from them.  Chris, do not let that dissuade you.  Know that your comments to the board STRUCK A NERVE and let that light your fire for continued advocacy. Continue speaking your truth and encourage other students to do the same.

Where are our student governments?  I’m afraid they no longer exist at any of our high schools. For the past three years, I have asked time and again as a board member to have student representatives be a part of what we do…student government or otherwise.  Obviously, that has never happened.

Where are my Tech alumni?

Where is our esteemed Cannon?

Here is what I am asking you, the reader, to do.  Teachers, students, administrators that are reading this blog: UNDERSTAND that students are just like us in this respect – they want things to be done in conjunction WITH THEM, not TO THEM.  If anyone’s listening, I’m ready to do my part to elevate student voice.  Send me student submissions, comments or concerns, and I will provide the platform.  Help me to make this a student-centered school district.

My thoughts are my own and don’t reflect that of any other body or entity.  You can contact me at gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

Tonight’s briefing session: 10-27-2015

The outcome may not have been perfect, but I think that the community’s involvement in the current agenda before the board has had some positive effect.  Following the forcible removal of Larry Vaughn, a well-known community activist, the board heard several other thoughtful delegations from community members on both sides of the issue.  There was a sizeable crowd present.  All seats appeared to be taken, and there were a few folks standing in the back and out in the lobby.  There was some media coverage of the issues before and after the meeting via WRTV6, Chalkbeat, and WFYI.

The result?

  1.  The board agreed to postpone voting on the move of school 70 to locate CFI #4 in Meridian Kessler.  That vote will take place FOLLOWING community conversations with schools scheduled November 2, 3, and 4.  However, voting on the closure of the Key School will continue as planned for Thursday.
  2. The board also agreed to retain some critically important policy language that speaks to diversity and inclusion:

“The Board believes that a high quality education is most effective in a diverse setting. Therefore, a major purpose of this policy is to promote diversity and avoid the isolation of students of both genders and different racial, ethnic, socio­economic, limited English proficient, and other special needs backgrounds. Diversity for purposes of this policy refers to the inclusion of students of both genders and different racial, ethnic, socio­economic, limited English proficient, and other special needs backgrounds. IPS must respond to the needs of all children in a setting that does not isolate, stereotype, or fail to educate them effectively. Diverse and integrated schooling has inherent educational value from the standpoint of education’s role in a democratic society. The survival and vigor of democracy depends upon an educated citizenry with shared concerns about the welfare of society, its members, and the democratic principles that govern it. Diversity brings different viewpoints and experiences to classrooms discussions and thereby enhances the educational process. It also fosters racial and cultural understanding, which is particularly important in a racially and culturally diverse society. In addition, research shows that integrated education expands post­secondary opportunities for diverse populations. A policy that supports quality education in a diverse and integrated setting for all students will positively affect students who will live and work together in a culturally diverse society and enhance their educational success.”

The same policy language also directs the Superintendent to enact targeted recruitment if there is under-representation of any student groups in magnet enrollment.

Rather than do away with all of the policies addressing equity, diversity, and inclusion, the board agreed to have a revision drafted for consideration on Thursday which will include the language above.  (YAY!!)


Here are my commissioner comments in their entirety:

“Tonight’s agenda is problematic on a number of levels.  It’s problematic because 1) it marginalizes children of color in order to accommodate a small select group of white, middle to upper class children and families – 2) the process by which we assign students to magnet schools in this district does not alleviate DOCUMENTED disproportionate numbers of white students in our most desirable magnet programs and 3) it’s a huge problem for me that no input was sought from school communities and families on this important decision to close a school, move a school, and locate a new CFI about a mile away from an already existing CFI school.

So, to my first point, the proposal from the administration that was just introduced to the board last Monday will close the Key School (80% minority pop), move school 70 (90% minority pop), in order to be able to locate another CFI school on the north side. Despite the claims from the IPS administration that the students on the waiting list primarily live on the north side, only about ¼  to 1/3 of the 310 kids waiting live in Meridian Kessler, Butler Tarkington, or Broad Ripple areas.  Besides, the north side already has several high performing school options including CFI 84 (which is 82% white) and the Butler Lab School, (58%) white.  Keep in mind that the entire district is 20% white – which speaks to a high concentration, or disproportionality, in relation to the overall enrollment of students in the district. 

This move is continuing a pattern of “building grabs” that was initiated last year when Gambold, the CFI-feeder high school, was moved from out on west 38th Street to displace an existing program at Shortridge High School. 

My second point is that we need to examine the root cause of this inequity.  How did we get to this point?  It lies in the way in which students who apply to magnet schools get placed into the schools.  This week we will be asked to vote to remove language from an existing policy on assignment to magnet schools- board policy 5120 – this language reads, “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.”  I see a huge problem in removing language from this policy which serves to protect the kinds of demographics that we see now.

Further, the tiered system of preference that determines who gets seats in our magnet programs perpetuates inequity.  The first seats go to siblings of currently enrolled students.  After they are placed, then seats go to kids living within the proximity boundary, which right now is a mile.  After that a larger geographical boundary is considered, and finally preference is given to IPS employees children.  Only then are remaining seats available to the broader magnet school applicant pool.  This current tiered system of preference does nothing but perpetuate huge gaps in access for students of color, and all but ensures that our magnets do not become more racially integrated.  One of the intended purposes of magnet schools nationwide was to integrate urban school systems, and other cities have achieved some success.  That is not the case in Indianapolis – and it will not be if we are eliminating language from our policies to address under-representation.

Third, in the age of ‘IPS transparency’, I am very disappointed in the fact that the IPS board (or, at least, I) was unaware of this plan until last Monday.  Even more disconcerting is the fact that families at all of the affected schools are not scheduled to have any discussion until the week after the vote is already done. 

Look, I am just one voice up here.  When I am done speaking, the audience will be inundated with plenty of reasoning as to why this is a good idea. A lot of that commentary will choose to focus on grade level configurations on the setup of different buildings.  Comments may also include data about the high number of minority children enrolled in other schools or magnet programs – WHICH – is NOT disproportionate BECAUSE IT CLOSELY REFLECTS THE OVERALL ENROLLMENT OF IPS AT 75% MINORITY.  But it’s past time for us to confront the real, underlying issues at hand here.  Are we going to continue to marginalize and disenfranchise our 75% black and brown kids for the comfort and convenience of a few?

I WILL NOT.”


Thanks, community, for your support and attention to what is happening with IPS.  Stay engaged!!  The vote on the fate of school 70 and the new CFI will be taken at 6pm on November 9th.  It is also a public meeting allowing for comment.  I hope that you all will continue to make your voices heard.

(My views are my own and do not reflect those of the IPS board as a governing entity.)

Comments or Questions?  Email me at 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!!

“Conversion to Innovation”

Next month, in October, we will get further information and have discussion on the biggest steps toward school ‘autonomy’ yet.  District schools, next year, will be encouraged to move into an Autonomous status (principals will control their own budgets) and then to move toward Innovation School status.  As an “Innovation” school the school will have obtained a 501 C-3 (non-profit) status.  This means that they will operate entirely independently from the district, have their own board, employ ther own teachers.  Once innovation status is obtained, the Mind Trust will give the school $50k.
Here are screenshots, showing the details:
auto3

This is a three-tiered system:

auto1

Schools will be able to move from Traditional > Autonomous > Innovation status in the following manner:

auto2
More information on the timeline and process:
auto4
The community is largely unaware of this plan at this point in time.  
Help spread the word: the above are slides from public documents concerning this plan, obtained from IPS board docs, from meeting held September 16, 2015 at Broad Ripple High School: http://www.boarddocs.com/in/indps/Board.nsf/Public  Share this blog, or share the link…but the community should be informed of this process so that they can engage.
**UPDATE** I made corrections to some of the language in the original blog.  I was mistakenly under the impression that this would be voted on by the board next month.  I was informed that this would not require a board vote…because it is borne out of the strategic plan.
These views are my own and are not affiliated with the IPS district or board in any way.

Black lives matter.

Disclaimer:  if the thought of having bold conversations about race issues is a turn-off, then read no further.  If you are sensitive or thin skinned, then this article may not be for you…because my intent is not to be offensive. The Indianapolis community needs to have broad, fearless conversations about race…and in order to figure out where to go – we first need to understand where we’ve been.  Here’s my attempt at an easily digestible history lesson, and food for thought about what is happening now.

1877 law stated that if no local school facility existed for black students, they could attend a school designated for whites.

An unintended consequence: by 1920, there were about 800 black students enrolled at Shortridge, Tech, and Manual High School – because there was no high school for black students at that time.  Apparently the 1877 law was based on the assumption that black students would attend to the 8th grade and then leave school.  When blacks sought a high school education and began to significantly populate these white institutions, some community members began to raise a fuss.  This fuss raising ultimately led to the creation of Crispus Attucks High School – where black children, for decades, attended…until desegregation.

At its peak, IPS enrollment reached over 100,000 students in the late 1960’s, with 11 high schools.  A federal court order mandated that desegregation of IPS schools be achieved by busing black students to townships to attend school.  After several years of appeals, busing finally began in the 1981-82 school year with 5,600 students being sent out of IPS to attend school in the townships.  It is notable that no students from the townships were bused into IPS to attend school.  It is also notable that the busing of black students to the townships likely spurred many disenfranchised black parents, with no means of engaging in their child’s school – inaccessible, way across town.  The loss of students caused the  closure of Shortridge and the conversion of Crispus Attucks to a middle school.  Desegregation of Indianapolis schools also undeniably caused a mass exodus of white folks who had the means and desire to flee the city to do so.  They left as fast and as far as their money would carry them – to places where the schools remained homogeneous.  The combination of busing and white flight over the decades has arrived at our current enrollment of around 30,000 students.

Why is this history important?  What is on my mind?

The fact that my husband came home shaken at the news of a former student murdered this past March.  He did not graduate.

The multitude of stories that have been confided in me by students over the years – the pre-teens who have mothered their younger siblings, the boys whose entire futures have hung, heavily suspended,  in the split-second space of a trigger pull, the 12 year old girl, robbed of her innocence, telling me about the miscarriage she had two years ago.

The 15 year old boy that the police killed over the weekend.  No dash cam.  No body cam.

Are our educational opportunities in Indianapolis still segregated, many decades after were we ordered to change?

In every school, do we not only see faces of every race represented – but do children with varying degrees of social capital and resources attend school together?  Do they not only learn from the same teachers, but maybe more importantly, learn from each other?

To take it a step further, what are the adults and the decision makers doing to create the conditions for this to take place?  Where are schools being intentionally designed to serve children of all races and economic means?  Give them equitable sets of “tools”?

If you see it, please let me know. Give me some examples.


Sidener (gifted and talented school) is 49% white, 26% black

CFI (school 2) downtown is 67% white, 14% black

CFI (school 84) Meridian-Kessler is 82% white, 7% black

CFI (school 27) King Park/Fall Creek is 35% white, 46% black

The entire district is 20% white, 50% black, 23% Hispanic

Source: IDOE Compass


Above I have illustrated the demographics of some of IPS’s more “in-demand” magnet programs.  If we were truly desegregated, ALL of IPS schools would roughly be microcosms of our overall demographics in the district.  Instead, we see pockets of white students concentrated in certain schools.  District policies, such as the sibling preference policy and the neighborhood/proximity boundary preference policy ensure that these demographics don’t change much.

All I see are the conditions being created for: the expansion of gentrification, and the perpetuation of a system which continues to impoverish and further disadvantage some… and we all know that those invisible lines of socioeconomic status – are usually marked with black and brown pens.

This society was built on oppression.  The U.S. was founded on inequity and inequality.  Need proof?  Women not being allowed to vote.  Blacks being considered three-fifths of a person.   It’s systemic.  Does our educational system continue to foster this oppression?  I think many of us would like to turn our cheeks and say, “No, this is just a part of our sordid past.  This is not happening – not here, not today.”

But it IS here, and IT IS TODAY.

What are we going to do??

Maybe my anguish won’t let me see the positive right now…too many traumatic endings for me to process.

My thoughts are my own and do not reflect any entity or any other person or sets of people.

Thoughts? Email me:

gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

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