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Charter schools is not a choice I want

Brooklyn Daily

As I toss my twelfth glossy Success Academy Charter School brochure in the recycling, I wonder what would happen if the millions Success Academy spent rabidly pursuing my family were spent on our local schools.

Success Academy wants to bring me “choice,” a trojan horse that masks their true intentions; to systematically dismantle public schools and profit from the “New Market Tax Credits” hedge funders get from investing in charter schools. Just as WalMart (a big funder of charters) destroys local shops, corporate charters destroy local schools. That’s not a choice I want.

I did my due diligence before deciding where to enroll my children. I looked at teacher and student attrition, peeled back marketing rhetoric, and unpacked language describing pedagogy and curriculum. I’ve been on so many school tours that my head spins, and I haven’t seen a single corporate-run charter school that merits the money and attention being lavished on it. I chose my local school.

Supporters of Success Academy will accuse me of being a union lackey. I’m not. They will say that I’m a supporter of the status quo. Far from it. I have lived in this district for many years and watched our local schools improve through diversity. I believe equity comes through public education, not segregated and privatized charter schools.

For the first time, our local schools are attracting families who would have otherwise enrolled in the progressive East Village schools. And we’re doing it without a million dollar marketing budget. Our district parents wisely recognize that test scores don’t tell the real story of learning. We choose less testing, not high test scores.

Our district has “choice” covered. Like French? Come to PS 110. Spanish? PS 84‘s dual language program. Super small class sizes? The Nest Program at PS 84 is starting in the fall. Parents can get in on the ground floor of the new, progressive Brooklyn Arbor School. PS 132‘s community service was honored by the White House. PS 31 is considered one of best in the city. There’s room for children at all of these schools, including three other charters and another Success Academy.

Our parents bring their entrepreneurial spirit into our schools, starting music programs, building green roofs, and creating robotic teams.

Our schools represent the winning combination of strong leadership, diversity in the classrooms, meaningful curriculum, parent engagement, and committed teachers. And we don’t need a lottery to attend them.

Brooke Parker is a member of Williamsburg and Greenpoint Parents for Our Public Schools.

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Williamsburg Parent from Williamsburg says:
Amen.
March 2, 2012, 9:10 am
Pregnant from Williamsburg says:
Thank you Brooke Parker, for working to protect our neighborhood schools from these corporate charter chains! When my child is ready for Kindergarten there will be excellent public schools still, thanks to you.
March 2, 2012, 9:23 am
Jonathan from Kensington says:
Amen is right! Ms. Parker, you have successfully made the argument for school choice! You've made the argument that many school choicers have been making, that sometimes the public school will be better than the alternative, and therefore should be rewarded. Failing or underperforming charter schools that parents don't feel merit their child's enrollment will be reformed or closed down. Either way, having the option to create new schools inspires and encourages our city to find better ways of educating our children to excel above and beyond the challenges they may face in today's world. While I doubt you intended to make that point, you did a terrific job of it, and I applaud you.
March 2, 2012, 9:51 am
Jonathan from Kensington says:
Amen is right! Ms. Parker, you have successfully made the argument for school choice! You've made the argument that many school choicers have been making, that sometimes the public school will be better than the alternative, and therefore should be rewarded. Failing or underperforming charter schools that parents don't feel merit their child's enrollment will be reformed or closed down. Either way, having the option to create new schools inspires and encourages our city to find better ways of educating our children to excel above and beyond the challenges they may face in today's world. While I doubt you intended to make that point, you did a terrific job of it, and I applaud you.
March 2, 2012, 9:51 am
Kate Yourke from Williamsburg says:
The charter school model has been hijacked and gutted by corporate entities like Success Academy, whose intention is to diminish and take over the institutions of truly public education.

Especially under Mayoral Control, parents have been completely excluded from meaningful participation in the educational environments in which they place their children.

This cynical system which values test scores over community has harmed our schools, their families, and especially our children.

Brooke Parker describes the intelligent and sincere values that parents bring to their public schools, and the consideration and effort they are willing to contribute to them.

Until people with real skin in the game are allowed to access and affect the decision making process, we will have destructive decisions forced upon communities who then must spend their effort protecting and repairing their schools, rather than nurturing and enriching them.
March 2, 2012, 10:03 am
Debbie from Williamsburg says:
What Brooke said. Exactly. As the mother of a kindergartener at PS84, I'm here to say that we parents are working hard with our schools' principals and teachers to improve our neighborhood schools, with some pretty amazing results. If we had the $1,000,000 Success is wasting by mailing unwanted, never-to-be-read brochures to me and my Northside neighbors, again and again and again, I'm pretty sure we'd all be a lot better off. We don't need more schools. We need to help the ones we already have to succeed.
March 2, 2012, 2:32 pm
WGmom from Williamsburg says:
From the New York Magazine:

New students are initiated at “kindergarten boot camp,” where they get drilled for two weeks on how to behave in the “zero noise” corridors (straight lines, mouths shut, arms at one’s sides) and the art of active listening (legs crossed, hands folded, eyes tracking the speaker). Life at Harlem Success, the teacher says, is “very, very structured,” even the twenty-minute recess. Lunches are rushed and hushed, leaving little downtime to build social skills. Many children appear fried by two o’clock, particularly in weeks with heavy testing. “We test constantly, all grades,” the teacher says. During the TerraNova, a mini-SAT bubble test over four consecutive mornings, three students threw up. “I just don’t feel that kids have a chance to be kids,” she laments.

Noguera, too, has reservations about the “punitive” approach at Harlem Success and other high-performing charter networks. He thinks it grooms conformists, and that middle-class parents would find it anathema. “What concerns me are the race/class assumptions built into this,” he says. “If you’re serious about preparing kids to be leaders, you have to realize that leaders have to think for themselves.”
March 2, 2012, 2:58 pm
WGmom from Williamsburg says:
From the New York Magazine:

New students are initiated at “kindergarten boot camp,” where they get drilled for two weeks on how to behave in the “zero noise” corridors (straight lines, mouths shut, arms at one’s sides) and the art of active listening (legs crossed, hands folded, eyes tracking the speaker). Life at Harlem Success, the teacher says, is “very, very structured,” even the twenty-minute recess. Lunches are rushed and hushed, leaving little downtime to build social skills. Many children appear fried by two o’clock, particularly in weeks with heavy testing. “We test constantly, all grades,” the teacher says. During the TerraNova, a mini-SAT bubble test over four consecutive mornings, three students threw up. “I just don’t feel that kids have a chance to be kids,” she laments.

Noguera, too, has reservations about the “punitive” approach at Harlem Success and other high-performing charter networks. He thinks it grooms conformists, and that middle-class parents would find it anathema. “What concerns me are the race/class assumptions built into this,” he says. “If you’re serious about preparing kids to be leaders, you have to realize that leaders have to think for themselves.”
March 2, 2012, 2:58 pm
Brooke Parker from Greenpoint/Williamsburg says:
Jonathan from Kensington,

There are lots of models of school choice that have nothing to do with privatizing schools. Relaxing zoning, magnet schools, and district wide public school choice are a few successful examples.

You have been misled in thinking that failing or under enrolled charter schools will be closed. If that were the case, if there were actually a mechanism in place that would oversee charter schools, then you'd be right. But, unfortunately, charter schools are open for five years before their charter is up for review.

What's worse, NYC has a TERRIBLE record for closing charter schools that are failing, let alone due to under enrollment.

Jan. 11, 2012 NY Times article, "Until now, the city’s rate of closing for charters — about 4 percent since the first charters were granted in 1999 — was below the national average: 15 percent of charters across the country have been closed since 1992, according to a report by the Center for Education Reform, published last December."

An article in the NYTimes from a little over a week ago states: "A new study from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, a nonprofit, pro-charter school organization, found that a smaller and smaller percentage of schools are being denied charter renewals."
March 2, 2012, 9:06 pm
Paula from Williamsburg says:
This is so confusing for me. I don't get why they want to come to an area where the schools are good? Aren't these schools supposed to be for neighborhoods where there are no good schools?
March 3, 2012, 4:55 pm
David from OMBasin says:
I am thankful that my children, now in their late 30s, went from kindergarten through eighth grade in ONE school, then went on to high school.
When a child is going into sixth grade and has to go to junior high school elsewhere, he/she is low man on the totem pole at the Jr. high school, and is often bullied and surely uncomfortable in his new environment. Why put a child through this stress?
Staying in one school until high school is more comforting, more beneficial, for the child.
As an aside, I believe pre-kindergarten is merely a free nursery school for working mothers, and an unneeded expense for government.
March 5, 2012, 1:50 pm
mama from Williamsburg says:
Paula, unfortunately there is a lot of need still unmet by the local school choices. Success Academy may not be the model I would choose for my kids, but the DOE model isn't working for us either. None of our schools are truly progressive or alternative or otherwise able to get outside the box and teach our kids based on current research & best practices instead of decades-old policy protected by bureaucracy and inertia (as well as members of the school system who want to protect the status quo rather than learn new ways to do things). Sadly, charter schools are the only schools able to really revamp education fast enough for my growing kids to benefit. The question of whether the Success Academy model is the one local families want is a question well worth asking, but anyone who thinks you can get real change out of the same old system is sorely mistaken. I'd love to hear from a parent of a child who is struggling in one of our schools testify to how the school is addressing those challenges. I have a feeling that the people vigorously defending our schools have kids who already succeed within the framework available, and haven't run up against its limitations.
March 5, 2012, 1:55 pm
Paula from Williamsburg says:
mama,

I was only wondering why Success picked an area of the district that wasn't struggling and has a lot of great schools available. I see Success Academy coming into middle class neighborhoods as a horrible sign. Their next stop is District 2 in Manhattan - with PS41 and PS3 and some other phenomenal schools. What's up with that? Clearly this issue has nothing to do with choice. Something else is going on here if charter schools are moving into districts with some of the best desirable schools in the entire city.

I am fully aware of the wide variety of pedagogical models available. I also know that it's kind of impossible to be truly progressive under high stakes testing. SO... step one to get our schools back on the progressive track is to get rid of the high stakes testing. That's pretty common knowledge among progressive educators, parents, and even students.

Charter schools were designed many many years ago to be little laboratories that would share their "best practices" with public schools but those days are over. Now, almost across the board, if they're part of a chain, they're mini-factories churning out high test scores and bumping the kids off the line who can't make the cut. None of us want to use those best practices in our public schools.

I like evidence to back up my points. Did you know that there is actually proof that as the number of students go down at Success Academy, their test scores increase? If the charter school is progressive, like Community Roots, they get Cs and Fs, just like the progressive public schools.

The only thing charter schools are good at revamping fast enough seems to be curricula, by narrowing them to the test, and student bodies, by counseling them out.

I also think that you're wrong about the reasons why people defend public education. I'd rather our schools improve like PS8 in Brooklyn did. A lot of people like me would like our kids to go to a decent local school.

You describe the local schools as not "truly progressive" or "alternative" and not up to speed on "current research" and "best practices" Can you please elaborate on this? We all know that PS31 is not really progressive, but what progressive practices are you not seeing in our local schools that you are seeing in Success Academy?
March 5, 2012, 3:26 pm
mama from williamsburg says:
My point is that the question of whether charter schools are good or bad is NOT THE SAME as whether Success is a good or bad model. Many charter schools don't follow the success model, and a lot of the current kerfuffle conflates Success Academy with charter schools in general. There are good charters and bad charters, just like there are good regular schools and bad regular schools. I don't find the Success model to be particularly progressive at all. I'm not sure about Citizens of the World - I don't know enough. Demonizing charter schools wholesale isn't going to hasten the arrival of a progressive alternative though. (Case in point: you argue above that Community Roots is progressive and gets low scores, and charter schools are only good at narrowing curriculum to the test.)

The district doesn't have "a lot of great schools" available. Period. It is a district full of parents desperate for alternatives.

In any case, much of the debate going on is only tangentially about charter schools or Success Academy - it's really about gentrification. The arguments being made against Success Academy coming into the neighborhood are EXACTLY the same (practically word-for-word) as the arguments made to my face as to why I shouldn't get involved in PS84 a few years ago. I didn't take them seriously then and I don't now. Working-class parents want good schools for their kids every bit as much as middle-class parents do.

Does no one else wonder how to reconcile the views "Success Academy is a terrible model" with "Success Academy will steal away all our best students"? How are these not mutually exclusive arguments?
March 13, 2012, 11:47 am
Paula from Williamsburg says:
mama,

Where are you getting your information from? This isn't a "district full of parents desperate for alternatives."

Can you please explain what it is that you want to see in our schools that you aren't seeing? I also don't understand what you mean about PS84. The reasons why people didn't want to go to PS84 had to do with the former principal, not the current principal.

All parents are nervous about urban public schools before their kids attend them, even in the tony districts. I don't think anyone implied that middle class families care more about their kids' education than others.

The largest complaint about our district schools has always been that our schools aren't progressive. That's certainly changed and continues to change. Some of our schools are now just as progressive as the schools people have left the district to attend.

There isn't anything more progressive about Citizens of the World that isn't already happening at PS84, PS110, PS18 and the plans for PS414. Allowing them to co-locate in one of our schools on a whim is absolutely irresponsible. Privately managed schools don't get looked at for FIVE YEARS before their charters are renewed. In that time, they can do an awful lot of damage to our community schools, not just the school that houses them.

The fact of the matter is that because enrollment is low in almost all of our schools, that kind of competition for resources will have a deleterious effect on most of our current schools.

You are wrong when you say that this is a debate about gentrification - because the gentrifiers don't want privately managed schools taking over our district either. Look at Cobble Hill. The same thing is happening there, and some of the loudest voices opposing the privately managed schools are the gentrifiers. The recent op-ed in the NYTimes is a great example.

The reason everyone across the city is fighting Success Academy and the invasion of privately managed schools is because we want resources put into our neighborhood schools. We don't want our communities to turn into New Orleans where there are no longer neighborhood schools to attend.

This is a debate about whether the community should have a say in community resources. The mayor does not believe that community input is relevant because it stands in the way of his larger agenda - to privatize schools.

These are LOCAL decisions with implications felt LOCALLY. Those of us who live in this district - who know the district - should have a meaningful say in the educational landscaping. The Community Education Council should be empowered to approve or deny these proposals, not the mayor.
March 19, 2012, 7:34 pm
Bushwacker from Bushwick says:
What the heck are you talking about mama? What arguments did people give you about not going to PS84? Mama, are you Jeremy Robins - The Lead Applicant for the Citizens of the World Charter Schools? This would be right up your alley, Jeremy - spreading lies and sowing fears about the public schools in the area so that you can privatize our schools, cherry pick the kids that go, and create a separate and unequal education system in our district. The only people that are buying this nonsense are a teeny teeny tiny portion of the luxury condo population - people who are more interested in private schools and want to create publicly funded private schools for their kids, but won't admit it. I've been around the block. Once your kids are happy in the public schools, you'll stop wanting to privatize them. Then, when someone else comes along to try to create privatized public schools for their children, you'll finally get it. I wish we could jump forward a few years so you stop wasting everyone's time.
March 22, 2012, 5 pm
Stopthefilibustering from Williamsburg says:
mama,

"Success Academy will steal away all our best students"? in spite of their being a crappy school:

Selection takes place BEFORE the lottery:

1) The lottery system is self-selecting. The children from the MOST at risk families are not entering the lotteries. Studies have already shown this to be true. The MOST at risk families send their children to the nearby public school.

2) The marketing is designed to appeal to families who are seeking "rigor."

3) Success Academy has paid workers lurking outside high achieving schools trying to poach students. PS31 is a perfect example. PS31 gets higher test scores than ALL of the Success Academies.

4) They blitz market some areas over others. In Greenpoint, some families were sent DOZENS of brochures in the mail over the past few months, while the poorest sections of Williamsburg (WHERE THE SCHOOOL WILL BE PLACED!!!) received theirs within the past 3 weeks.

Post lottery

5) There is a special meeting for families who won the lottery designed to parse out the families who aren't able to fulfill the family contract - never come late, etc.,

6) Counseling out of ELLs, SPEDS, and kids who aren't testing well.

I hope that answers your questions, mama.

Our DoE schools take everyone. Maybe that's what this boils down to. You believe in SEPARATE schools for kids who don't test into the G&T program. There are schools for those kids. They're called private.
March 23, 2012, 10:48 pm

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