May 6, 2014

Privatizing Our Schools?

I woke up this morning to this:
There'd been some talk about a private company taking over one of our elementary schools. The school didn't meet AYP (adequate yearly progress) and so was labeled Level 4, Level 5 is state takeover. Once one school hits Level 4 the entire district is Level 4 (not that the other schools are perfect, a few have been described as "Level 3, on the cusp of Level 4"). This means a million meetings for administration and a lot of attention on the district, with the one school 'responsible' for the designation in the spotlight. Media coverage has been entirely inadequate. The high school earned NEASC accreditation during the time we've been labeled a Level 4 district (a much more thorough process than the state uses, including site visits and interviews and observations) but there was never any news article on that!

Once a district hits Level 4 they have three years to 'turnaround.' We are two years into that process. From what I've heard working at this elementary school is like living in a pressure cooker. The other schools have people breathing down their necks too, but I know we don't have it as bad as they do. Apparently the powers that be lack patience and they don't want to wait that third year to see if we can make adequate progress. They are signing the school over to a private company. When I first heard about it the phrase "school management company" I didn't think it sounded bad. We already have all sorts of people "managing" the schools, maybe a single company who was experienced in this would help everyone to focus and remove some of the stress. Then I got an email from the union who said the company uses uncertified teachers. Then I heard that only 15 of the teachers currently at the school want to apply to keep their positions. So I have no idea what the best choice is here. I don't know what the options really are. I want to be informed, especially about what's going on in my own town, but the information is lacking.

Have you heard of Blueprint Schools Network? Is a private company better worse or neutral compared to a state takeover?

I'm not even sure where the mayor stands:

I recently read an article in the New York Times, because the mayor of Salem tweeted a link to it:
She wrote to the mayor, Kimberley Driscoll, and asked her to sell her and her husband on Salem and explain the school district’s test scores... [The mayor] wrote back and explained that average scores were not likely to rise much because of the community’s commitment to diversity and to teaching students for whom English is a second language. Any individual child’s education, however, wasn’t necessarily reflected in averages, the mayor reminded Ms. Peterson.
I love this response. Our kids who stay in the school system for their entire education are on par with kids from other districts. But we have a huge turnover rate. To the point that I can't keep a gradebook, I print a spreadsheet every couple weeks so I can edit it as kids are added and removed from my class.

On the other hand, today's tweet from the mayor:

I'm not sure I believe her, but I sure hope she's right. Our kids deserve a better future.

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