Education Policy & Practice

Archive for December 5th, 2009

John Sabat, center, and Doug Snyder, right, at a Success Charter Network event.

Tucked away in the “Fashion & Style” section of the New York Times is an article titled, “Scholarly Investments.” Author Nancy Hass writes about the commitment and zeal of young 30-something hedge fund managers and analysts (with deep pockets) to education, specifically charter schools.

“I think it’s all good and well that these people are finally stepping up to support education,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, referring to wealthy hedge funders. “But I would wish they would do it in a more foundational way, a way that would help all the children instead of just a small group.”

The problem is, the current structure of our educational system severely limits the kinds of bold and targeted innovations and plain old common sense policies and procedures.  Let’s take teacher policy, for example.  A HORRIBLE teacher could remain in his/her position in a traditional public education setting for years and years and years.  A teacher can go UNEVALUATED  for nearly a decade in a traditional public education setting.   Please don’t be surprised if you’re reading this and think that this is overexaggeration on my part or that these are atypical examples.

One of the biggest departures from the traditional, policy-hamstrung public school model is the freedom … ability to control (not complete autonomy as we saw with KIPP Baltimore’s outrageous fight against the union) over teacher hiring policy, calendar, and program, to name a few.

So I ask Mr. Mulgrew (or anyone else who would like to comment), “HOW would you suggest ‘these people’ step up to support education in a more ‘foundational way, a way that would help all the children instead of just a small group?'”

I am not suggesting that all charters are blazingly successful.  If that’s what folks are looking for, perfection or a silver bullet, then you’ll be sadly disappointed.  However, when folks attack success, that’s when I wonder about what’s going on in the cranium.

Whether charters do a better job of educating children, even with the extra help from private donors, is much debated. A study released in September by researchers headed by Caroline M. Hoxby, an economist at Stanford who is a fellow at the Hoover Institution, concluded that on average New York City charters outperform local schools. But another study by a different group of Stanford researchers last summer suggested that nationally the numbers are muddier.

Mr. Reffkin, who was raised poor by a single mother in Oakland, Calif., and says he aspires to run for city office one day, considers charter schools “the civil rights struggle of my generation.”

“In the past, we’ve had one or two big hedge fund guys footing most of the bill for each school,” Mr. Reffkin said. “But now enough of my peers in this industry who may not have the money to carry the whole thing understand what’s at stake and what the return can be.”

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Baltimore Sun writer, Liz Bowie, shares with us the great work that Higher Achievement is doing with Baltimore City students. Founded 30 years ago in Washington, DC, this model of mentoring and support is now operating in two locations in Baltimore.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Higher Achievement Program in Baltimo…“, posted with vodpod


Education Policy & Practice

December 2009
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