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View Diary: Superman Is Fantasy, Teaching Is Reality (66 comments)

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  •  This Is The Most Important TakeAway (26+ / 0-)

    I myself don't believe in "miracles", but the concept of Promise Neighborhood as envisioned by HCZ does have real potential.

    Unfortunately, the potential is grounded in this fact, which you highlight, and I think Geoffrey Canada (unlike many of his devotees) readily acknowledged in the past:

    Endorsements of Canada's HCZ also raise another serious contradiction in the education reform debate—funding. Many advocating charter schools also reject the need for increased education spending, but Canada's experiment is driven by his own wealth as well as the funding of many wealthy donors. In other words, if HCZ results are worth praise, we must also acknowledge that access to funding plays a role, access that isn't available to traditional public schools.

    If the public schools received as much financial support as HCZ did per student, we wouldn't need to be having the discussion we are having right now.  Those of us reared in the public schools decades ago know with certainty what has been lost in terms of well-rounded public school education in the past 20 years (unless you are fortunate enough to be in a wealthy school district.)  Private philanthropy is increasingly substituting for the public funding that should be the duty of our nation to provide to public schools.  But a.Alas, wealthy donors are only interested in contributing to education when they can control both the input and output - and HCZ shows that.  There have been quite a few anecdotal stories at this point of philanthropists basically saying "my way or the highway" within HCZ as it relates to specific programs on their cradle-to-college continuum.  Thus, it is not a question of having the education of children as the priority - it's a question of investment, to them.

    And we all know what happens when "investors" don't feel they are gaining sufficient return on their investment.

    Respectfully, to the extent we need anything, we need a return to the idea that an education is more than whether someone can hit a certain score on standardized tests.  I unfortunately won't hold my breath on that given the political trends, but I am at least grateful that all my children (all public school kids) are done with K-12.  I would hate to be a parent trying to do what's right for my kid in this new world of anti-public education propaganda and carrots being held out for the few who are lucky enough to get into a good charter -- provided they stop giving a damn about the children of their peer families who will be left behind.

    If you don't stand for something, you will go for anything. Visit Maat's Feather

    by shanikka on Fri May 06, 2011 at 07:55:59 AM PDT

    •  To be honest, I don't see (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      this great golden age of Whenever. And certainly not for high-poverty kids.

      The Wonder Years of Great Results, to the extent they existed at all, ignored high poverty and special needs kids.

      I was a public school student 30 years ago, and what I see - really - is smaller class sizes, more science, more rigorous instruction for more kids, more options, more innovative programs.

      I grew up in a suburban public school, and it was pretty much sink or swim. Motivated kids and kids with good home support mostly did well. Kids without that smoked in the smoking area and maybe they graduated, maybe they didn't, and no one (among the public at large) much cared.

      That's not to say things can't be better. But at this point, I think we can do more by lifting communities and funding the programs we have rather than the radical reforms that are so in fashion.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Fri May 06, 2011 at 08:23:47 PM PDT

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    •  Ah,...No (1+ / 0-)
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      It's not about the money.  I am an Architect.  My practice is primarily focused on K-12 school design.  I did a study last year of the 43 public school districts in my county (Allegheny County, PA, where Pittsburgh is located).  I know, we're weird, here in PA - we have 500 school districts state wide, and our districts are not county-wide).  My study focused on district performance (academic performance as ranked by the Pittsburgh Business Times) vs dollars spent per student.

      Our county is home to some of the largest and wealthiest school districts in the state (Mt. Lebanon, Upper St. Clair, Fox Chapel, and Quaker Valley), and some of the poorest (Clairton, Duquesne, Sto-Rox, and Pittsburgh)  We have urban, suburban, districts with 6,000 kids, districts with 700 kids, and everything in between.  We have majority black districts, all white districts, and districts with various mixes up to 50-50.

      What I found:

      1.  By far, the best performing districts spend the least per student ($11,000-13,000/student).

      2.  By far, the worst performing districts spend the most per student ($15,000-20,000)

      3.  No high performing district has a high concentration of poor students (none in the top 15 have more than 30% free and reduced lunch population).

      4.  District size has little to do with performance.  The worst performing are big (Pittsburgh, Woodland Hills) and small (Clairton, Duquesne).

      5.  All of the high performing districts are either affluent, or solidly middle/upper middle class in demographics.  Racial mix was a factor, but only as it related to affluence, not in and of itself.  Some of the poorest performing districts are nearly all white, but they are still relatively poor.  This is self perpetuating, as higher achievement attracts more affluent home buyers, who in turn build bigger homes and drive up real estate values, which attracts more affluent buyers and excludes the lower middle and lower classes.  There are a few exceptions, where multiple municipalities make up a district, and wealthy communities subsidize poorer communities (Quaker Valley, West Jefferson Hills) but they are racially homogeneous, and an exception overall.

      My conclusion:  What you spend per student does not matter - in fact it has  a reverse correlation to achievement.  What matters is the education level, involvement, and affluence of the parents, period.

      I'm not sure what my data has to do with charter schools, but please don't think that charter schools are higher achieving because they have access to more money to spend per student.  The data does not support that.    

      •  Why do the low performing districts spend more (0+ / 0-)

        per student? Do they require more remedial teaching staff to fill in the educational blanks for students who lack basic skills essential to learning? Do they have to pay more for transportation to get kids to school? Or more for dietary concerns, like breakfast for their students who wouldn't otherwise get to eat? Or more for materials, because their kids wouldn't have books/paper/pencils if the school didn't provide them? I have great skepticism that spending less per pupil per se accomplishes better results; I would hope for more information about why this is so, since it seems highly counterintuitive.

        Your black cards can make you money, so you hide them when you're able; in the land of milk and honey, you must put them on the table - Steely Dan

        by OrdinaryIowan on Fri May 06, 2011 at 08:53:33 PM PDT

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        •  It's also likely that the affluent schools (0+ / 0-)

          do actually spend more than is reported, but that it's money raised voluntarily through community grants and fundraising. None of that money is counted in the official stats. The $500 check that 100 parents wrote to the PTA is not counted in those numbers, nor is the $500 field trip fees and the $200 in supplies or the $200 worth of absurdly expensive candy.

          There are schools that can support teachers plural solely based on donations.

          And then there are schools that fundraise out the dickens to raise $1000 for a local field trip.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Fri May 06, 2011 at 09:34:03 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That's Right (0+ / 0-)

            My kids went to the neighboring public school system, which is affluent, thanks to a desegregation order.

            On average, parents were expected to write checks averaging $1,000 per kid for activities and programs, such as science lab, and language workbooks, and extracurricular activities.

            Absolutely, that money is being spent - and it is spent off the official books of "per pupil funding."

            If you don't stand for something, you will go for anything. Visit Maat's Feather

            by shanikka on Sat May 07, 2011 at 07:06:24 AM PDT

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        •  That Was Going to be My Question (0+ / 0-)

          What are they spending it on? All you have to do is look in the classrooms to know what they aren't spending it on - a well rounded education that produces complex thinkers.

          I am the product of public schools as well, and that did not used to be the case.  So no matter how much more money they are spending now (once one takes inflation into account) it isn't really being spent on education.

          If you don't stand for something, you will go for anything. Visit Maat's Feather

          by shanikka on Sat May 07, 2011 at 07:04:38 AM PDT

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          •  The budget for a public school district (0+ / 0-)

            is a public document. If you believe it is not being spent properly and effectively, I encourage you to learn more about where it is being spent.

            One thing that has changed since you were a student, most likely, is that public schools now have an obligation to educate every student, including the disabled and medically fragile. They have to provide special services to special needs kids, including kids with significant behavior or mental impairment. This is only true since 1975 or so.

            I completely agree that we have an obligation to educate those kids, but it is expensive. In some cases, they are assigned a full time aide or are placed in very small classes, raising the cost of their education to $50k or more for that one student.

            Health insurance, believe it or not, reverberates through the education budget as well. In the 1980's, health insurance was about the size of a cable bill. Today, it's the size of a mortgage payment.

            The majority of the education budget at most schools is going towards people. Not all of those people are the classroom teacher - it also goes to support counselors, bilingual support, reading specialists, maintenance people, bus drivers, etc.

            In our day, the money was spent mostly on white students and middle class and up. Poor kids in poor neighborhoods have never gotten a well-rounded education.

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Sat May 07, 2011 at 09:18:32 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

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