Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bronx Principal Jamaal Bowman Debunks Common Charter School Myths

Please allow me to indulge for a moment. First, good schools are good schools. I don't care what we call them. The most important thing in a child's life after a parent is a good teacher, coach, or mentor. When I say good schools, I don't mean schools that simply have good test scores. I'm speaking of schools that get good scores, as well as develop the character and passions of their students toward self actualization.
Allow me to debunk a few charter school myths. I don't know if this applies to all charter schools but definitely the ones I have some experience with. First let me say that studies show if a parent is savvy and passionate about education, regardless of race, class, or educational background, their child is more likely to graduate high school and college. Charters (at least the ones I have experience with), make sure that parents prove how serious they are before even giving their child a chance of getting in. For example, one charter that I know, mandates (not using this word lightly), that parents attend 5-6 meetings before even entertaining the possibility of the child making it to the lottery. These are obviously parents that value education in the home. If parents miss one meeting, no lottery. On the other hand, district schools have to take everyone. The savvy parent AND the struggling parent without meeting mandates. A parent can go through an entire school year without attending a meeting and the child is guaranteed a spot in a district school.
Further, in case you didn't know, parents also sign contracts in many charters to ensure homework is done, meetings are attended, and certain behavioral execrations are met. If the parent or child breaks the contract, the child can be kicked out of school. I know. I've seen it done while "interning" at a charter school.
Lastly, charters can fire teachers and have extremely high turnover rates. From my conversations and observations of charter schools, I've heard many of the policies and procedures be called "inhumane." This could be why so many teachers can't last anymore than two or three years in many charters. Ironically, these charters serve as a perfect pipeline for TFA --mocking two year commitment.
Based on what I know, as they are currently constituted, charters, TFA, and yearly standardized testing are wrong for our high need communities. We should stop funding them all unless they agree to make major adjustments to how they do business. Why? Because that money can be spent on giving all students a quality holistic education. Charters, TFA, and yearly testing infuse anxiety, disunity, and even worst, standardization into the psyche of society. They are trying to recreate a 21st century idea of "empire." Keep the masses, and "lower class" under control while the elite continue to rule. A standardized mindset will always be controlled. Whereas in schools like Riverdale Country School, there are not state standardized assessment, no TFA and no need for a charter, and they are taught to lead and change the world.
Consider KIPP'S first graduating class. Ranked fifth in NYC in mathematics in the 8th grade, but only 21% graduated college. Why? Because KIPP test prepped the kids to death and the kids never built their character or learned to manage their own freedom. KIPP and many charters standardize and try to control everything from how kids walk through the halls to how they ask to go to the bathroom. But teaching and learning is organic; it is human. When are we gonna ask ourselves why must poor communities of color be treated like this, whereas middle class and upper class parents would NEVER go for this treatment!
WE HAVE TO hold politicians and private citizens who invest in education accountable to the true needs of our at-risk communities. We must give our communities a true voice. If charters, TFA, and the state really cared about our children being their very best, show us, by investing in daycare, Montessori, music, sports, counselors and everything in between. Charters should take all children and TFA should change everything! If not, the powers that be will continue to fatten up the district school kids to be slaughtered and fed to their private school bosses as adults.
For the rest we have jail cells waiting for them #wemustunitenow


Jesse Turner said...

Mark you said: "First, good schools are good schools. I don't care what we call them. The most important thing in a child's life after a parent is a good teacher, coach, or mentor."
Mark, allow me to indulge for a moment as well. The way I see it is fair and equitable policy is fair and equitable policy. 1.2 trillion federal tx doolars and 13 years spent on testing and standards did nothing to change the fact that "49 states spend more money on their wealthy schools than their poor schools", (2015 Quality Counts Report Education Week). Any system that forces poor schools to compete against wealthy schools based on taking the same test, while ignoring inequality, lack of resources, and a lack of services is rooted deeply in a policy of immoral inequity. Choice without equity is a choice rooted in an immoral character of leadership. America's children deserve an equal start and an equal finished in our schools, and anything less is a crime against our children. SOS and BATs plan to end my walk to DC with a Mock Trial that places two presidents and three Secretaries of Education on trial for educational malpractice. Ring every bell I plan to be a witness for the prosecution.
I am one man walking to DC in the name of Love,

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Straight Talk said...

Dear Mr Bowman, I was a teacher for over 4 decades in a great number of different schools in NYC and Rockland County.
I have a thing or too to say about the TFA crowd, but i am pressed for time, and just want to say ho much I loved your post. I have worked for, full time, for 8 principals, and part-time for 12 years in East Rampo primary,and secondary schools.
I have a thing or two to say about the TFA crowd but not here.. I have worked full-time, for principals, and part-time *for 12 years) in East Rampo primary,and secondary schools as I raised my kids.

I remember all the principals in the schools where I was expected to teach, and every single one, until 1991, were there to support my practice and the children's learning. It was, back then ALL about learning.

Then in 1991, when I returned full-time to open a new middle school in NYC, and write the curricula for the sixth and seventh grade Language Arts, I discovered something had changed. The principals were actively engaged in making my professional practice difficult. HARASSMENT was easy, not repaying me for outlays of money, taking up my time with nonsense, which deprived me of the prep time I needed in order to teach over 120 kids four periods a day, in two subjects. ( I was the seventh grade art teacher, too, as I Integrated art into my Communication Arts curricula.)

MY niece, Jennifer Steiner, is a principal of a k-8 in San Francisco; she has a reputation for supporting her staff and knowing her student body. And I know about Carol Burris, so I know what the real thing looks like, and want to say to YOU, sir, that YOU are so important to the success of a school

We need more principals like YOU, Mr Bowman, because 3 out of 4 of the “Eight Principles of Learning, were the direct responsibility of the principal. I will probably be talking at the NPE about that National Standards research for which I was the cohort, —- research in which I was one of six teachers who ( in a unique way) met every principle that applies to teacher practice. My work toured the nation— I am told by the LRDC — but then, at that time, I was in a rubber room as they attempted to charge me with incompetence… something that they knew could not possibly work.

I remember ALL the principals in all the schools where I was expected to teach, Every single one of them, until 1988, were there to support my practice and the children's learning. It was, back then ALL about learning. I trusted the principal, and although they differed in style and competence, they were all fine people. The last three men were either incompetent or in some way, dishonest or corrupt. Something was changing.

Straight Talk said...

I am 'straight talk. MY name is Susan Lee Schwartz. and I report on education and write at Oped News. Google me, and go to my authors page. I also write at the Diane Ravitch blog, where my voice is well-known.

I wish to relate a bit more about my experience with the new breed of principal:
In 1992, After the first year, when I helped make the school a success, the principals were actively engaged in making my professional practice difficult so that I would move on. . Instead of assisting me, they were openly, even brazenly antagonizing me!In my second year with HER at the helm -- and after my practice became the talk of the town, and kids lined up to choose the school — she began to make me as miserable as she could… not hard for such a harridan. Her plan was to replace me after I helped to establish the school and then send me out the door… but (LOL) I came with tenure. She was replaced when three of 10 teachers resigned=== One very talented French teacher left muttering that she was a “head-jam”.

My practice was noticed and I heard my name on he cross town bus. In one year the city was asking what is going on at East Side Middle school, as the children were at the top of the city on ELA exams. By the fifth year the LRDC and Pew had chosen me as the cohort for the national standards research, and the city got a ton of money!

The 2nd principal began to make things hard for me in a dozen ways that mattered… even as the LRDC filmed my practice for the Harvard research and the school put district 2 on the map. One would think that a good principal knows when there is a valuable asset on the staff. During that time, he did his best to undermine ME behind the scenes. The PTA loved me and the president relayed his underhanded behavior. He took credit for things that I had accomplished, promised to pay me for outlays of money,and then did not. He stole my precious prep time and never backed me when a student was the problem. Luckily, I seldom had problems with student behavior. so I closed the door, taught my heart out, and ignored the harassment. I loved the kids, their parents, and the neighborhood and it was so much fun teaching curricula that I wrote. I didn’t file a grievance until one day, he overstepped himself and lied to hurt me, using a student incident to condemn my conduct… until the parent had a fit, knowing the truth.

Straight Talk said...

and here is part 3 of my last experience with TH ENEW BREED OF PRINCIPALS.

The third principal Eat Side Middle School, was much disliked — he was all talk, and charm and no real help. A snake-oil salesman whom the staff disliked from the get-go , but whom I supported, because I needed his support for a complicated curricula and a huge student load. I actually befriended him, but in the end, it was he, who looked for incidents with which to ‘charge me,’… for it was 1996 and you rid the school of a tenured teacher NOT BY VAM , but by alleging a crime… like corporal punishment and bypassing civil rights laws.

The forth principal, (n my 8 years there) — before she became Superintendent of a Brooklyn district, managed to accuse me of something more insidious! . This woman, a Ph’d, had taken my work around the nation, as point-man for the Standards research when she was Director of Curriculum in NYC District 2 (you know, where the MET is). Back then she would say to me: “They loved your work in Chicago.” She nominated me for an award, but now, spit in my face….“That was then, this is now.”

Whne she arrived, I no longer taught the entire seventh grade in the curricula that I had made famous in the nation! Upon my return from my first illegal and immoral incarceration in the rubber room. she documented my incompetence every day — as I was teaching a few kids in a storeroom. My famous classroom had been dismantled, and my 1000 book library ( which I bought) distributed to other classes. She humiliated me at every turn and made my life a hell.

Then, when I refused to quit, she wrote that someone told her that "I threatened to kill her, — and I was sent back in the rubber room.I never saw my classroom again. I never taught again, This principal, at the moment that I was a celebrted teacher, ended my career! I saw the conspiracy first hand. I have a thing or two to say about the role of principals and the IMPACT of what they do. I was blindsided!

I learned that there was a new breed of principals out there, as I began to read in The NY Teacher, about principals from hell.
So, to conclude, Mr Bowman , Good Luck — and keep talking about what works.
Your voice is so welcome.
In fact go to the NPE conference in April. Be part of the solution and meet Carol and Diane Ravitch…. and me!

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