Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Charter Party of the Year: The Tweet Report

I believe that charter schools were once a viable option, a way to diversify and expand the possibilities available within a public school system. That possibility has all-but-vanished, crushed under the transformation of charter schools from an educational offering into an investment opportunity (thank you, obscure tax law). Modern charter operators care about education no more than millionaires with Swiss bank accounts care about Switzerland.

Nothing quite underlines that transformation like the annual National Charter Schools Convention. It's happening in Vegas, but unlikely to stay in Vegas. It's not over yet, but it has already generated some fabulous news. In one shocking surprise, the Broad folks awarded a butt-load of money to KIPP schools for being totally awesome.

Unlike some actual journalisty types, I was unable to break away for the soiree, but I still have twitter. Let's see what #NCSC2014 looks like.

And of course, there are the celebrities. Last year's charter edupreneur was Pitbull (who presumably was not exhorting his own students to get "face down, booty up" nor conjecturing "slicker than an oil spill, she says she won't but I say she will.") This year, Steven M. Quezada was looking to shelter some of the money he made on Breaking Bad, and appeared as the kickoff speaker.

It's a nice sentiment, but it appears that many speakers spoke on the subject of "How much public schools suck way more than charters," or how to most effectively market your charter as better than crappy public schools.

Yeah, that should be interesting.

Plenty of elected officials and their representatives were on hand (also, former elected officials like Eric Cantor).

Again, many of the presenters seem not to have gotten the "charters are public schools" memo, unless it was suppose to mean "charter schools have just as much right to public tax dollars as public schools." In which case, they totally got the memo.

Glad to hear that NOLA schools are doing great, because I was pretty sure the news was that, having gotten everything they ever wanted, the full-on-charter RSD wasn't doing significantly better than the old public school system had. After NOLA has a full year as an all-charter district, there should be a fun conversation at NCSC2015.

This is a ballsy slice of data for charters to throw around. I'm guessing that the next slide was not "Here's how many charter 9th graders actually graduate from that charter school." It's easy to claim superiority on the drop-out issue when you are free to throw away or force out any students you don't want on campus. 

Really? Really!? I am not a fan of school choice at all, but even I have never tried to link it to hookers and the mob and  stripping suckers of their money on sucker bets.

Boy, were the corporate folks out in force. Here's just a partial list compiled by a fellow educator: Broad Foundation, Pearson Foundation , Getting Smart, 50 Can, School Choice Now, PublicCharters.org, CredoAtStanford, ChartersNChoice, Sal Kahn, Schoolzilla, Black Alliance for Educational Options, NoodleEducation, Capital Impact, Hispanic Creo, The Reinvestment Fund, Accelerate Institute, Orrick Public Finance, CharterBoardPartners, and of course, the Fordham. Now, yes, it's basically a trade show, but still- can we pretend a little it's not all about the $$?

Thomas Newkirk has clued me in to the term "mystification," and I plan to exercise it. It refers to the business of making something seem so technical and special that it is beyond a teacher's capability, and will require some sort of expert, training, or technology to manage it. English teachers, take a look at this and tell me if you need a consultant to come in and explain it to you.

The Browns are both on hand. Ken was one of several presenter who covered the PR needs of the charter movement. 

Judging by the tweets, Frank Luntz fired plenty of people up. This particular quote seems like a straight line-- "there are no losers in charter schools because as soon as we spot them, we ship them straight back to public schools where they belong" comes to mind.

There was a lot of this language, an alternation of "here's a great product" with "we are doing God's work." There was acknowledgement of the need for diversity side by side with repeated offers to win mini-ipads by stopping by and texting mystory to a number. Data gathering indeed.

I keep hoping that at some point the profiteers will move on from charter schools and let charters regain their souls. There was a time they showed real promise. But this-- this is like finding one of your old friends, one that you always thought was destined for great things, hunched over a one-armed bandit, eyes blurred, voice slurred, and the last of his savings being pumped into the machine because he's sure he's about to strike it rich while the family he's responsible too waits at home, broke and hungry.

Vegas, indeed. I look forward to more reports from #NCSC2014

1 comment:

  1. Peter,
    Your resolve to use Newkirk's "mystification" reminds me of the power of Jacquez Barzun's diction as he argued, seemingly constantly, against the malevolent ignorance of previous ('50's, 70's. 90's) reformster assaults on our once-proud public education system.

    There is of course much more to recommend than Barzun's selection and use of words. His classical ideas about teaching and learning, bent to the realities of appropriate child development, and to what's reasonable ot expect of work in public education, compel on their own merit. However, "verbal inflation," "pre-posterism," and perhaps most Greene-y, "educationists," are among the sharpest rhetorical barbs that Barzun used to hook my interest in his arguments.

    Perhaps for your trip to Seattle you could get a copy of Barzun's "Begin Here:The Forgotten Conditions of Teaching and Learning," to find some additional words to exercise as you continue to fight in this century what Barzun fought in the last half of the 20th.

    I applaud your work.
    Jerry Masters
    PS-Godspeed as you travel.