Monthly Archives: November 2015

State Supreme Court says no — again — to Washington charter schools

Charter SchoolsDemocratic state Rep. Larry Springer, left, speaks to supporters of state charter schools during a rally in front of the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015. Rachel La Corte AP

The Washington State Supreme Court announced Thursday that it will not reconsider its September decision declaring the state’s voter-approved law establishing charter schools was unconstitutional.

The high court had been asked to reconsider its decision by several parties, including the state charter school association, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a bipartisan group of 10 legislators and four former state attorneys general.

A slim majority — five of the nine justices — said the court should deny the request for reconsideration. Three justices dissented, saying they would have revisited the decision in full.

Additionally, Justice Mary Yu said she would have been willing to reconsider the portion of the decision invalidating charter school funding.

The court ruled Sept. 4 that the state’s voter-approved charter school law is unconstitutional, mainly because the schools are overseen by boards that are appointed rather than elected.

The state’s nine charter schools — all but one newly opened in August — have continued to stay open as they waited to see whether the court would reconsider its ruling.

Three of the charter schools are in Tacoma.

The ruling came on a day when buses from Tacoma and elsewhere in the state ferried more than 400 students and parents from charter schools to Olympia, where they rallied at the Capitol, testified before a joint Senate committee meeting and met with legislators.

Sen. Mark Mullet, a Democrat from Issaquah who met with charter school families at the Capitol, called the timing of the decision “horrible.”

“There are 300 students here who were really happy with their schools,” Mullet said. “What a bad day for the court to tell them that they’re not going to reconsider.”

Katie Wilton, a ninth-grade student at Summit Olympus in Tacoma, called the ruling unfair and asked lawmakers to be courageous and do whatever they can to save her school.

“This goes against the will of Washington state voters,” Wilton said. “This is not how democracy is supposed to work.”

A change in state law now appears to be the last hope charter supporters have for maintaining public funding for the privately managed schools. The schools had been receiving public funds while the court reconsideration loomed.

What will happen on the funding front is still to be determined, said Cynara Lilly, spokeswoman for the newly formed Act Now for Washington Students, which backs charters.


Rich Wood, Washington Education Association spokesman

“We are disappointed that the Supreme Court hasn’t ruled in favor of our families who are crying out for these great public schools,” said Maggie Myers, spokeswoman for the Washington State Charter Schools Association. “What this means is that we will shift our attention to the Legislature.”

“This adds a sense of urgency to what kids and parents were asking for today,” Lilly added.

Sen. Bruce Dammeier, a Puyallup Republican who is one of the Senate Republicans’ leaders on education issues, said the court’s decision was disappointing, especially considering how many stories lawmakers heard Thursday about how charter schools were benefiting students.

“Many students of poverty and color, who have felt disenfranchised and disconnected by our traditional schools, are seeing tremendous results at these schools,” Dammeier said. “Why the Supreme Court would be using arcane legal arguments and technicalities to deny these 1,200 students the education that they choose and is successful for them is beyond comprehension.”

Others said the Supreme Court was correct to stand by its September ruling. State Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, said charter schools — like traditional public schools — need to be accountable to local voters and taxpayers.


Cynara Lilly, charter school spokeswoman

The court’s announcement Thursday should help refocus the Legislature’s attention on boosting funding for K-12 public schools, said Rich Wood, a spokesman for the statewide teacher’s union that challenged the charter law.

In the case known as McCleary, the Supreme Court has held the Legislature in contempt for its failure to come up with a plan to fully fund basic education by 2018.

“Now it’s time for the Legislature to focus on its paramount duty … and fully fund K-12 schools for all of our state’s kids,” said Wood, of the Washington Education Association. “That’s what we expect lawmakers to do when they return in January.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Urban Charter Schools Often Succeed. Suburban Ones Often Don’t.

22view-web-articleLargeThe Match Charter Public High School in Boston. Charter schools in Boston have produced big gains in test scores, research shows. KAYANA SZYMCZAK FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Charter schools are controversial. But are they good for education?

Rigorous research suggests that the answer is yes for an important, underserved group: low-income, nonwhite students in urban areas. These children tend to do better if enrolled in charter schools instead of traditional public schools.

There are exceptions, of course. We can’t predict with certainty that a particular child will do better in a specific charter or traditional public school. Similarly, no doctor can honestly promise a patient she will benefit from a treatment.

Social scientists, like medical researchers, can confirm only whether, on average, a given treatment is beneficial for a given population. Not all charter schools are outstanding: In the suburbs, for example, the evidence is that they do no better than traditional public schools. But they have been shown to improve the education of disadvantaged children at scale, in multiple cities, over many years.

Charter schools are publicly funded but not bound by many of the rules that constrain traditional public schools.

Charters, for example, can easily try new curriculums or teaching strategies, or choose to have a longer school day. They have more autonomy than traditional public schools in hiring and firing teachers, who have voted to form unions at only a handful of charters. Perhaps as a result, teachers’ unions have often opposed charter schools, saying they compete unfairly with traditional public schools and are not held to the same standards.

Measuring the effectiveness of any school is challenging. Parents choose their children’s schools, either by living in a certain school district or by applying to a private or charter school.

Some schools are filled with students — say, the children of highly motivated parents — who would perform well in almost any setting. This could mislead us into thinking these schools provide an exemplary education, when the truth is they attract strong students.

This is so-called selection bias, the greatest challenge in evaluating the effectiveness of schools. Stuyvesant High School in New York City, to which entry is granted through a competitive exam, is filled with smart students who might succeed anywhere. When those students do well, is it because of the school or the students or both? How about Harvard, or any other school?

In the case of charter schools, researchers have found an innovative way to overcome selection bias: analyzing the admission lotteries that charters are required to run when they have more applicants than seats.

Each lottery serves as a randomized trial, the gold standard of research methods. Random assignment lets us compare apples to apples: Lottery winners and losers are identical, on average, when they apply. Any differences that emerge after the lottery can safely be attributed to charter attendance.

One concern with this approach is that charters might push out difficult students after the lottery. News accounts indicate that some schools have engaged in this practice, including one school of the Success Academy, a high-performing charter school network in New York City.

That’s one reason the lottery studies don’t compare students who are and are not enrolled in charter schools, but instead compare students who win and lose the lotteries. If a student wins a lottery but declines to attend, or transfers out, her test scores are still assigned to the charter for the analysis. This means that the estimates are not biased by transfers after the lottery takes place.

Tracking thousands of students across hundreds of schools is made possible by student-level databases that states provide to approved researchers under stringent security agreements. Whether a child stays in a given school, transfers within a district or moves to a different district, these databases record her test scores, grade progression and, in some states, college attendance.

A consistent pattern has emerged from this research. In urban areas, where students are overwhelmingly low-achieving, poor and nonwhite, charter schools tend to do better than other public schools in improving student achievement. By contrast, outside of urban areas, where students tend to be white and middle class, charters do no better and sometimes do worse than public schools.

This pattern — positive results in low-income city neighborhoods, zero to negative results in relatively affluent suburbs — holds in lottery studies in Massachusetts as well in a national study of charter schools funded by the Education Department.

My own research, conducted with colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, shows that charter schools in Boston produced huge gains in test scores. A majority of students at Boston’s charters are African-American and poor. Their score gains are large enough to reduce the black-white score gap in Boston’s middle schools by two-thirds.

Boston’s charters also do a better job at preparing students for college. Charter students are twice as likely to take an Advanced Placement exam as similar students in Boston’s other public schools. Ten percent of charter students pass an A.P. calculus test, compared with just 1 percent of similar students in other public schools. This stronger preparation means that these charter students are far more likely than similar students in traditional public schools to attend a four-year college.
Perhaps only the best charters are popular, and that’s why the lottery studies produce such positive estimates. We can’t use the lottery approach to assess a school that does not have high demand for its seats.

In Boston, we used alternative statistical methods to examine the charters that are not oversubscribed. We found smaller but still positive results. A Stanford study examined student performance in 41 cities, and also concluded that their charters outperformed their traditional public schools. A caution: Without randomization, we can’t be as certain these nonlottery studies have eliminated selection bias.

Not all charters are successful, of course, but we should not expect them to be. Charters are a place for educators to try out new methods. Some of these experiments produce great results. Others don’t. It’s the job of government to distinguish between the successful schools and the failures, and to shut down the failures.

In Massachusetts, charter schools with a proven track record are allowed to add more grades or open more schools. The Match charter in Boston started as a high school but now also enrolls students from kindergarten through middle school. But in some states, including Ohio, oversight is weak, and poorly performing charter schools have been allowed to expand.

A charter gives schools the autonomy to innovate. But it also obliges state and local governments to hold schools accountable. If schools that don’t educate children well are allowed to stay open, it’s a failure of government, and not of the charter experiment itself.

Susan M. Dynarski is a professor of education, public policy and economics at the University of Michigan. Follow her on Twitter at @dynarski.


Tennessee Dad: The Refugees Among Us Now


It’s funny. As I read all the comments about Syrian refugee children and their potential arrival in the United States over the next couple months, I marvel at people’s opinions and their lack of knowledge. I have a unique perspective because my children both attend a school where there is a high population of English Learners and children in poverty. It also serves a large population of refugees. Refugees that arrive from all over the world, places with terrorist organization every bit as active as those in Syria, just without the headlines.

There are students at my kids’ school who, just last year, lived in fear of violence. Some of them might have been carrying rifles themselves; after all, they arrived from war-torn countries like Somalia and Nigeria were the recruitment of children as soldiers is an established practice. The possibility also exists that their parents may have been complicit in acts that you or I would find reprehensible. Last year, an older boy from Africa woke his mother by pouring hot coffee on her as she slept, but now he is a student here. Yet somehow we’ve welcomed them all and done our best to educate them with remarkably few incidents due to the dedicated professionals who interact with these children every day. In Nashville those professionals are among the best in the country and the districts plan among the boldest.

Yesterday, I read to my son’s kindergarten class. A class made up of children with names I couldn’t even begin to spell, yet their names roll off my son’s tongue like Mark or John would roll off mine. I look at these children, and I just marvel at the breadth of experience that my son is privy to because of them. We read I Am Helen Keller, and while I won’t say they paid rapt attention – they are kindergartners, after all – I think the message resonated. And when I read Stick and Stone, they laughed aloud. These are children like any other children and I got as much from them as they could ever get from me.

A couple years ago, I had a conversation with the then-head of Teach for America in Nashville. She made the assertion that we always need to remember that kids of color are not in the classroom to be cultural experiences for white children. At the time, I kind of bought into that, but after seeing my children thrive in their school and interact with their multicultural friends, I find her statement to be ignorant. Every child in the classroom is there to be a cultural experience for every other child in the classroom. We all learn from each other.

Reading and math is important, but what good is that knowledge if a child has no ability to interact with their peers? The world is changing rapidly. Our children will not be able to function in silos. Their peers will be Egyptians, Chinese, Mexican, Thai, Somalian, French, and yes, Syrian. What that future actually looks like will depend a great deal upon the skills that our children develop now. Why would we not provide them a safe place to hone those skills in their formative years?

The thing is, this experience has to become more equitable. We have to ensure that these children are getting an education that is not dissimilar from the one our children receive in wealthier schools. They must be exposed to athletics, music, art, industrial arts, and not just focused on meeting testing demands. We must help them assimilate in a manner that allows them to get the best of this country. The same way many of our ancestors were assimilated when they arrived on Ellis Island more than 100 years ago. At that time, Ireland, Italy, Germany, and even Puerto Rico were considered scary places to be from.

The first step is that we have to recognize that all English learners are not the same. There is a huge difference between refugee children and immigrant children. Yet on test score reports, there is no statistical differentiation. Children who arrive from Egypt are vastly different from children who arrive from Iraq, though both are of Middle Eastern descent. Even children arriving from the same country are not the same. A wealthier school may have children from Mexico, but these children have parents who have an average of a high school education, while a school like my children’s has children whose parents have an average education of second grade. For immigrant children, language mastery may be the key to unlock the door, while for refugee children it may be just the beginning . We must force ourselves to look at EL children as we look at all children, each with unique talents and needs.

If you look at a list of so-called failing schools, you’ll notice something interesting.None of those schools are in wealthy neighborhoods, and the majority of them have either a high concentration of students from high poverty, high English learners, or both. This can be traced directly back to how we test those new to the country. In Tennessee, every student is tested and if the student has been in the country for a year, their test counts against the school and against the teacher. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that if you can barely speak the language and your parents are still trying to navigate the system, you are not going to produce spectacular test results.

What that translates to is a heavy focus on getting these children ready to test. In a wealthier school, you don’t have to be as relentless because children are having lessons reinforced at home. Whereas children who are English learners have parents who may be working two jobs and trying to acclimate on their own. Teachers are under a constant barrage in high EL schools to prepare children to test. There is no time to explore other interests, children may be exposed to the same subjects as children at wealthier schools but exploration seldom goes as deep. Wealthier schools also have the luxury of forming parent organizations that are capable of raising tens of thousands of dollars to offset the cost of required technology for these state tests. In a high EL/poverty school these organizations are virtually non-existent. It makes a difference.

There is also the fore mentioned challenge of language. Many of these children arrive at these schools not speaking a bit of English. Both of my children sit next to kids who don’t speak English at all. In my son’s class, one was distraught every morning and would cry for his mother. Peter would come comfort him and help him get his breakfast. The child has slowly become acclimated, and I can’t help but think my son played a part in it. Peter learned a lesson about what it means to be different and alone and how kindness can change the picture. His classmate learned that even if you find that you are alone and different, there are friends waiting to be made. I think this lesson is every bit as important as the grade level they are reading on.

When we talk about language we don’t give a clear picture either. You will hear so-called experts talk about how quickly students learn English and so things aren’t as hard as they’re painted out to be. What they are referring to is “playground language,” and they are right, children master this quickly. Sometimes within a year. Unfortunately, excelling at the tests requires a mastery of “academic language,” and that takes four to seven years to master and is dependent on the amount of education received in a child’s native country. This is long enough for children and schools to be labeled failures despite studies that show that once English learners become proficient in academic English, their test scores soar.

This year, I have been working on trying to get legislation passed that will allow for us to get a more accurate view of how our schools are performing. I am proposing that we don’t include the test scores for EL children until they are either English proficient or have been in the country for 5 years. This aligns with current research and only makes sense. Unless of course we are trying to use those scores to demonstrate failures instead of success.

I recently met with representatives from the Tennessee Department of Education on this matter and was very encouraged by their response. They recognize the need to differentiate and are open to finding methods to establish a policy that gives our EL students room to breathe, but still holds people accountable. Though as an aside here, the majority of teachers I know hold themselves to a greater level of accountability than the State could ever apply. That said, I’m encouraged by the DOE’s receptiveness. We are supposed to meet again after the first of the year, and I really appreciate their willingness to collaborate. It is evidence that Commissioner McQueen may be truly changing the culture at the Tennessee Department of Education.

As you are reading the debates of whether we should allow more children from Syria into the country or not, please keep in mind the children of the school where my own children attend. A school full of children who come from areas of the world where evil atrocities are being committed just like those in Syria. They come from areas that terrorist groups every bit as dangerous as ISIS exist and are every bit as active. Yet we welcome them and try to prepare them for a better world every day. Also keep in mind that we’ve had citizen’s of our own country walk into schools and commits heinous acts. So even if we were to deny entry to every foreign born child we would still be vulnerable.

We need to continue to pursue strong English Learner policies and provide safe learning places for all children. We have teachers and administrators in place that know these students needs and the best ways and means to address those needs. The experiences and knowledge of these administrators and teachers needs to be utilized to drive policy that will better enable our schools to serve all children.  I also encourage you to volunteer in a high needs schools, or in any school. It’s one social experience that will change your life.



323 guns collected at gun turn in program in Prince George’s


Guns collected at gun turn in program at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden, Saturday, November 21, 2015. (Deputy Chief Nader/@DChiefNaderPGPD/Twitter)

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — A Prince George’s County gun turn in program led to the collection of 323 guns, Prince George’s county police said.

The event was held Saturday at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden worship center in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

In a tweet from the First Baptist Church of Glenarden, the church said in a partnership with Zion Church and Prince George’s County Police, 323 guns were collected including semi-automatics, rifles and handguns. Individuals that turned in guns received gift cards.

According to NBC4 Tracee Walkins, there has been 14 more murders this year from last year.



The Nike KD 8 “Prince George’s” Pays Tribute to KD’s Home County


The Nike KD 8 “Prince George’s” is a brand new Nike KD 8 colorway that pays tribute to Kevin Durant’s home county, Maryland.

We’ve seen a kids version of the KD 8 release with a multicolored sole, but this adults pair not only has a similar rainbow sole, but the tongue also receives a colorful geographic pattern too.
The “Prince George’s” edition of the Nike KD 8 is dressed in a Wolf Grey, Court Purple, Cool Grey, and Blue Lagoon color scheme. The shoe features a full Grey base upper with Court Purple on the Nike Swoosh and sits atop a Yellow midsole.

Nike KD 8 Prince Georges Release Date

Check out the detailed images below and look for the Nike KD 8 “Prince George’s” to release on November 25th, 2015 at select Nike Basketball retail stores. The retail price tag is set at $180 USD.

Nike KD 8 “Prince George’s”
Wolf Grey/Court Purple-Cool Grey-Blue Lagoon
November 25, 2015

UPDATE: Nike has released official images of the “Prince George’s” Nike KD 8 that drops this Wednesday, November 25th. Check out the images below and let us know how many of you are planning on scooping these up in the comments section?

via Nike


Nike Headquarters

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PGCPS football coach gets 10 years for having sex with a student

Andre Brown

Andre Brown

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (ABC7/AP) — A former High Point High School teacher and football coach was sentenced to 10 years in prison for having sex with a student. Andre Brown, 34, was found guilty in September.

According to a statement from Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, on Homecoming Day in September, 2013, Brown, had sex with a 17-year-old student in the boy’s locker room at High Point High School in Beltsville. The incident occurred during school hours.

Brown was arrested last year after the girl accused him of sexually abusing her on the school grounds.

Brown was placed on leave by the school system following his arrest. He had been a special education teacher at High Point. He was fired as the football coach following the 2013 season.

When he leaves prison, Brown will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

“We are pleased that Mr. Brown was given this sentence because he was in a position of power and had the responsibility to care for and protect the children in his school,” Alsobrooks said. “Instead, Mr. Brown violated that trust and now not only is his life forever changed, but so are the lives of the victim and her family, as well as his own children and family.”






World Toilet Day is November 19th.

Take Action.


We, the People Who Can’t Wait

2.4 billion People do not have adequate sanitation. 1 billion people still defecate in the open. Poor sanitation increases the risk of disease and malnutrition, especially for women and children. Women and girls risk rape and abuse, because they have no toilet that offers privacy.”

This year, World Toilet Day is focusing on the link between sanitation and nutrition, drawing the world’s attention to the importance of toilets in supporting better nutrition and improved health. Lack of access to clean drinking water and sanitation, along with the absence of good hygiene practices, are among the underlying causes of poor nutrition.

The aim of World Toilet Day is to raise awareness about the people in the world who don’t have access to a toilet, despite the fact that it is a human right to have clean water and sanitation.“

On this day people are encouraged to take action and help promote the idea that more needs to be done. You can host an exhibition, write a toilet song, host a dinner or draw a cartoon – anything that shows #wecantwaitany longer and that everyone worldwide must have access to a toilet.

Sustainable Development Goals

Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all

Clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in. There is sufficient fresh water on the planet to achieve this. But due to bad economics or poor infrastructure, every year millions of people, most of them children, die from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene.

The initiative builds on the strong commitment already made by UN Member States.  The “Sanitation for All’ Resolution (A/RES/67/291) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in July 2013, designating 19 November as World Toilet Day. The Day is coordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with Governments and relevant stakeholders.


“The 2030 Agenda calls on us to renew our efforts in providing access to adequate sanitation worldwide. We must continue to educate and protect communities at risk, and to change cultural perceptions and long-standing practices that hinder the quest for dignity.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon