Thursday, July 2, 2009

Green Dot Schools Coming to DC?

I was intrigued by this article in the WaPo today, which says that the founder of Green Dot charter schools, Steve Barr, was in DC to meet with Michelle Rhee to discuss running one or more DCPS High Schools. I've read about Green Dot before (there was a great article in the New Yorker, but you can only see it if you register), but only in the national news, which has a tendency to gloss over some things. It sounds as though this organization has done a great job turning around Locke High School in L.A., but, as the article mentions, the test scores are not yet in.

Green Dot does some interesting stuff. They take over larger failing schools and break them up into smaller and more manageable academies. Its founder, Steve Barr, is by all accounts kind of insane -- he once called the L.A. Union leader a "pig fucker." And yet they work with unionized teachers -- a real rarity among charters.

What really intrigued me is how Green Dot forcibly took over Locke High School -- without approval from the school district. Essentially, as a result of a California law, a school can divorce itself from the district if there is enough support from teachers and community members. This is what happened at Locke. Not bad, if you ask me. Why don't we have a law like that? How many of us wish we could divorce our schools from the preposterous stupidity that is DCPS?

Yes, please.


Kat said...

Not knowing anything else about Green Dot except what I read in the Post and your post, I have to say...

Please, can we get someone with the cajones to call Parker a "pigfucker"? Pretty please?

Toby said...

Kat, your remark to true but also funny, but in a different way. I know you meant to write "cojones", meaning balls in the vulgar sense of the word, implying guts or courage. Cajones means drawers in Spanish, not meaning underwear, but drawers like in a chest of drawers. Cojones are really what are needed and I have never heard of anyone called a pigfucker. This guy must be truly off the chain.

Kat said...

I stand corrected. Mea culpa.


Anonymous said...

Um, yeah, but in DC, Green Dot's presence would not be a case of a school community divorcing itself from the District. It would be a case the District gutting a school and turning it over to outsiders (i.e. Green Dot) without any community input.

Toby said...

I actually read The New Yorker's piece on the Green Dot schools and was fascinated how it turned around of a failing drop out factory, plus worked with the teachers' union. When a school is reconstituted under NCLB for not making AYP for 5 years in a row, it is essentially gutted. Its staff have to reapply for their jobs, or a whole new school program, such as Green Dot, is brought in.
What's the comment about outsiders? DC is full of outsiders. We're the nation's capital. People come here from all over the nation and the world, though admittedly, they don't settle in Anacostia or far SE, due to the high crime.
So far the complaints I'm reading about Green Dot are focused on adults and not on its track record with at risk young people.

Anonymous said...

When the "community" has failed, systemically, egregiously and consistently for decades, isn't it time for "outsiders"? And if not now, when??

Anonymous said...

I don't have an opinion on Green Dot's success,but I did see this when I went to their site.

4. Parent Participation
Green Dot is committed to actively integrating parents/guardians into all aspects of their students’ education experiences. Parents are required to give at least 35 hours of service annually at all Green Dot schools and a wide variety of service opportunities are made available. Education programs are provided to new parents to help them learn the best ways to support their children’s educations.

I don't see how you can require parents of students at a public (non-charter) school to do 35 hours a year of work at tht school. I'm not saying it's a bad idea, but I think that this is going to be a major non-starter for Green Dot.

Kat said...

7/6 ANON: What if the high school turned over to Green Dot was made admission-only? That would open up the possibility of a parental involvement requirement.

(I'm sorry, but when I find myself talking about requiring parents to take an interest in their children's lives, I get Chris Rock stuck in my head screaming, "You're supposed to, you dumb m-f-!")

Once a school begins admissions, it's automatically seen as a better alternative to the neighborhood school. But of course, not all DC high schools can be admission-only...

lodesterre said...

Kat, Your Chris Rock comment certainly applies to some parents but not all. I have found that some parents simply cannot give extra time to their child's school because they may be working two jobs - neither of which gives them personal days or sick leave but requires them to lose pay in order to take a day. Some worked night-shifts and were bringing their kids to school at the end of their shift. There are more reasons than simply apathy to explain lack of parental involvement. It does not mean they do not care and do not want their child to succeed.

The idea of parents being involved in the school is a good and admirable idea. It isn't practical for every parent. I have found, however, that when a community is fostered within a school, when a school develops a strong identity with its community, than there are parents who more than willingly take up the slack for those parents who are unable or, as is sometimes the case, unwilling to be involved. No one feels compelled and the result is a stronger school with a stronger spirit.

In terms of Green Dot's success. While many articles speak of success none give clear statistics. There has been, of course, criticism that has spoken of incremental success - not much difference between the scores the kids would have made in public schools. Green Dot boasts of 80% of their students going on to college - which is certainly an improvement according to any statistics. What is interesting according to one article I read was that Green Dot's scores on the Academic Performance Index was not much better, in some cases, than many of the schools they are trying to take over in LA. API ranks schools based on their standardized test scores with 800 and up being viewed as excellent. According to this article the average API scores for 11 Green Dot schools in LA is 678.64. Not terrible but nothing to crow about either. I got this from a San Francisco Examiner article online.

I was accepted into college with average SAT scores - nothing to crow about either - so I don't look at the scores as a condemnation of Green Dot. What is important to me is whether the statistic concerning the numbers of kids who go on to college is accurate. A kid who scores ok or even mediocre on a standardized test but goes onto college and possibly improves his or her life is a much more hopeful story than mediocre schools/drop-out students. The thing is does anybody have honest to God statistics on this or is it all hyperbole coming from Steve Barr's incredible media machine?

Anonymous said...

re if not now, when?

When you actually have a viable educational plan in place. When you've done the outreach necessary to have community support and assistance.

Rhee destroys but she doesn't seem to have any idea how to build. She just hires and fires and that's a rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic approach.

Change is nothing new in DCPS. But it looks more like churn than progress. At this point, Rhee seems to fit the mold rather than challenge it, despite her change agent rhetoric.

Wyrm said...

I'm the anon that posted the part about parent involvement. I'm not saying that it is a bad thing, but generally speaking, some (not necessarily all) of the gains that charters gain are due in one form or another to parental involvement.

A neighborhood school just can't have a parent participation requirement, and so you are automatically setting the Green Dot school up to get a better then average selection of students through the simple filter of parental involvement. To me this just continues the whole concept of filtering out all of the "desirable" students and sticking the neigborhood schools with the rest.

Kings said...

Lodesterre - I'm very suspicious whenever I see a claim of a high percentage of students "going on" to college or "being accepted" at college. It could easily be a gimmick - weasal words that don't explain that they all apply and are "accepted" into open admissions schools that accept everyone, and/or they "go on" for a semester, maybe, or a few weeks, before they drop out. I'd like to see the statistics on how many are accepted into colleges with admissions requirements beyond a hs diploma and how many stay for how long.

I don't think we'll be hearing about that. The current statistics are just a PR stunt - like so much of what happens in education today.

lodesterre said...

Kings, that is why I expressed my concerns about the accuracy of those claims. The problem with coverage of Green Dot is that there aren't very many articles that give a detailed examination in regards to the claims Barr and Green Dot make. This is pretty much true of most "reform" situations - such as here with Rhee. Claims are made by the person who stands to benefit most from such claims, the media reports and repeats the claim and then does no real research into whether these claims hold up. This process is repeated with each article that comes out - because instead of doing real investigative journalism the journalist simply scours previous articles on the subject, asks a few questions to the same sources that they always use (we have seen this time and again at the Post)and then reiterate the claim without any real follow-up. This does a disservice to us all.

On top of this, when you have a newspaper whose board is made up of the very investors who are backing the reform movement - Eli Broad and the Gates Foundation (Melinda Gates and Broad are both on the Post's board, I believe)- and that paper's coverage demonstrates a bias over and over again - i.e. Bill Turque, the only journalist asking tough questions to Rhee, being relegated to the online blog The Wire - you have a compromised situation in which true examination does not occur.

There is this notion that any examination, any tough question asked, is tantamount to criticism of the subject. This is how big mistakes are made in government and management. If an official cannot make an articulate defense of their policy, of their program, of their plan, other than to say "trust me" or "if you knew what I knew you would do..." than that policy deserves to be taken apart and examined to see if it will hold up in the light of day. To not do so by our officials and by our journalists is irresponsible. To say, as so many have here and in the Post, that the situation is so bad that "something has to be done" does not negate the need for a strong hard look at the claims being made by anyone who is involved in education.

rdsathene - Robert D. Skeels said...

Even a modicum of research would expose all the Green Dot lies for what they are. The New Yorker didn't mention Green Dot has schools have APIs as low as 494 in the case of Steve Barr's Animo Watts did it? Did their glowing servile piece mention Green Dot having 4 schools in the lowest 35 of SAT scores in LA County? I don't think so. Did it mention the Waltons, Milkins, Gates, Broads, and other right wing ideologues recognizing charters as a way to eliminate affirmative action, crush unions, and to advance their voucher ideas provide huge grants to charter operators like Green Dot?

BTW, I know Green Dot still gets away with claiming LAUSD's drop out rate is 50%. In 2009 it was 26.4%, in 2008 it was 31.7%. Just another lie brought to you by Steve Barr, Marco Petruzzi, and Ben Austin's lucrative Green Dot CMO Empire.