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Monday, June 27, 2011

The Times Union editorial board gets it wrong on a trio of education issues.

First they complained about teachers suing to get back the three percent pay cut the state forced upon them to pay for their pensions. Maybe teachers would have been more willing to chip in the three percent if they wouldn’t have been excoriated with the teacher merit pay bill or if the legislature would have closed the loopholes that see the state pass on billions of dollars first. Teachers understand sacrifice they just want it to be shared and right now Scott and the legislature expect them to fix the problems with the budget. I remind you teachers and education took a three billion dollar hit in the latest budget, which is only one billion less than last years.

Next they went on and on praising the local KIPP School. The local KIPP school chooses who they take and keep, requires parents to be actively involved and for kids to attend much longer days and on Saturday. Furthermore they spend more per pupil than public schools and for all this their test scores brought down the city average. Imagine what we could achieve if we put the same level of resources that we do in the KIPP schools into our local public schools. Charter schools are not the magic bullet that those seeking to profit off education would have the community believe.

Finally they mischaracterized Stanton Prep as if it was just anther local school when nothing could be farther from the truth. Stanton takes the cities best and brightest kids and most involved families. If they weren’t one of the best schools around then that would be a story. Many of us in the education community believe having advanced academic magnet schools has seriously damaged the overall health or our local education system. They also have very few disabled children and their percentage of children on free and reduced lunch is one of the smallest in the district, so much for taking students at all skill levels.

I like to play darts but I am not very good, though every once in a while I manage to hit the bullseye. You would think just by luck the Times Union editorial board could say the same thing when talking about education.

Chris Guerrieri
School teacher


  1. A fine example of the current state of media coverage. How is it possible that journalists could miss the details of significance?
    "...and for all this their test scores brought down the city average." The ed reformer would say, "but the student growth should be celebrated. Why disrespect the students!"

  2. Was there student growth? I don't know, I hope so and I imagine the kids and staff worked hard but this was more about how charter schools don't do any better than public schools and just imagine how much better public schools would do with the same resources...

  3. I have read your blog frequently and agree with you on many issues, but I think your analysis of the TU's editorials might be slightly amiss.
    KIPP schools may represent several bad trends for school reform, but I think that there is an opportunity here to see if they do, in fact, have the ability to help many students that have come to school below grade level in reading and mathematics. The FCAT results for the school do confirm what many of us have suspected about turning around schools and bringing students up to grade level. It is not an overnight process and the work will not be performed by some miracle teacher or teachers in this week's education movie of the week. However, policy decisions might (fingers crossed) be informed by KIPP's results even with greater per pupil spending, longer hours, and required parent involvement. The KIPP spokesman indicated that students made at least one year's progress in both reading and math even if they were not performing at the district or state averages yet. If anything, maybe the district and state will begin to understand that the marginal cost of educating underperforming students is much greater and that moving in a positive direction is a multi-year commitment. No one is saying, including the TU from my reading, that the results prove an overwhelming success, but even with the perceived advantages of the KIPP school we might gain a better understanding of how tough it is to teach students who are many grade levels behind.
    I don't believe the TU mischaracterized Stanton, either. The Newsweek rankings reflect Stanton's performance in a number of areas. Newsweek's old rankings were based on Jay Mathew's Challenge Index which moved to the Washington Post. The new rankings indicate that Stanton scored very well not just in high expectations for students, but that students performed well, too. The Miracle Schools feature highlighted ten schools that did extremely well in the rankings, but were not the type of magnet school you consistently misrepresent Stanton as. There are not admission screenings and students cannot be forced out without documentation of consistent failure. It is true that Stanton has fewer students on free or reduced lunch than many other schools, but of the dedicated magnets only DA truly chooses its student body. Stanton has developed a culture of excellence over thirty years and, frankly, it's getting tired to throw the same untrue accusations at it. Can every school in Duval county be Stanton? Probably not. However, there are still some good neighborhood schools and, obviously, some other neighborhood schools that need some help. I did want to point out that even though you and I agree that poverty levels play an enormous role in the predicted success of students, it is wrong to assume that lower levels of free and reduced lunch equals not taking students of all ability levels. I continue to wonder how advanced academic magnets have undermined the health of the entire school system. Is it the size of Stanton and Paxon? You might have noticed that a number of the other schools high in the Newsweek and US News and World Report rankings are very small. Would there be fewer problems for you and other educators if Stanton, or Paxon, was the only academic magnet and had only 200-400 students total? How would moving Stanton's IB program or AP program to Ed White benefit your school? The students in the IB program would more likely than not still be academically segregated because of the differences in the curriculum. So, they might improve your FCAT scores a few points, but we both know that you would still be responsible for moving up your lowest quartile to make gains. I contend that the overemphasis on arbitrary testing gains for the lowest quartile is what is undermining neighborhood schools. We would do a greater disservice to the students of Stanton and Paxon if we forced them to take the generic curriculum of many neighborhood schools with its emphasis on FCAT instruction.

  4. Those were both more indictments against the Times Union than against those schools.

    Charter schools are not the magic bullet they are made out to be and the KIPP school employs herculean measures and still this year came up short, then they talked about Stanton as if it was some regular neighborhood school and it is not.

    If I were in charge I would leave Stanton and Paxon alone and I know that sounds weird because how I talk about them, I would use them as an example of what we should be doing in the neighborhood schools, thats having a disciplined student body taking classes they find relevent to them. Right now that is not the case.