On any given day, you can find Sarah Carpenter organizing parents in the Memphis area. A single mother of four daughters and 13 grandchildren, Carpenter was an advocate long before becoming co-founder and CEO of The Memphis Lift, which she describes as “a parent organization run by parents, for parents.”
Born and raised in North Memphis, Carpenter says her experience as a single parent prepared her to lead The Memphis Lift. “I have always been an advocate for my daughters and for other’s kids,” she says. “I started in 1995 when I was asked to help open a Family Resource Center in a high school and students without involved parents in their lives took to me. Parents would stop me and say, ‘They are passing my son on to High School and he can’t even read.”
Carpenter and her fellow co-founders met during the training component of a public advocate fellowship funded by the Memphis Education Fund, which educated parents about the landscape in Shelby County Schools (SCS). At the time, SCS had the highest number of “priority schools” –those in which student scores on state exams ranked in the bottom five percent – in Tennessee.
Carpenter and her colleagues have since visited more than 10,000 homes to educate others on the state of Memphis’s schools. SCS students can attend four categories of schools: traditional neighborhood schools, charter schools, charter schools in the state-run Achievement Schools District, and schools in the district’s Innovation Zone.
For Carpenter and her organization, ensuring that all parents – regardless of income – have access to all the options SCS has to offer is paramount. In January 2018, the district launched a scorecard to help parents compare schools based on student achievement, growth, attendance, and suspension rates. The Memphis Lift helps parents interpret the scorecard and navigate their options, so they can make the best choices for their children.
Carpenter is intimately acquainted with the many options parents have: all of her daughters attended neighborhood schools, yet all but one of her grandchildren attend charter schools.
Charter schools are public schools operated by independent organizations—mostly nonprofits—typically on five-year “charters,” or performance contracts. They are free from many of the bureaucratic rules that stifle innovation in district schools, but in return they are accountable for their performance: if their students are falling too far behind grade level, their charters are not renewed and they must close.
Carpenter’s granddaughters are not unusual. Charter enrollment in SCS has increased every year for the past four years; currently, 15,200 students—15 percent of the district–are enrolled in 51 charter schools. In spite of the increased enrollment, enrolling in charter schools in SCS is no easy feat, even for the most engaged parent. Enrolling in the highest performing charters, which use lotteries to select their students because so many apply, is even more difficult. First families mustvisit their zoned school or approved school choice location to get a PowerSchool account, then they must register online, then visit charters they are interested in, then apply and hope they win the lottery. For parents with multiple children in multiple schools, the process can be difficult, expensive, and time-consuming.
The topic of charter schools in SCS was highlighted in The Memphis Lift’s Annual Parents Summit, last October. This year’s summit was done in collaboration with the Memphis Education Fund and the Progressive Policy Institute’s Reinventing America’s Schools project.
Charters in Tennessee are authorized either by districts or by the state Board of Education. In cities and states where authorizers close failing charters, their performance is usually far better than that of district schools. Where authorizers fail to close lagging schools, charter performance is far less impressive. Unfortunately, Shelby County Schools has not been rigorous about closing its charters, and their quality varies.
In the most recent SCS scorecard, SCS secondary charter schools perform better than K-8 charter schools when compared to district-managed schools. SCS secondary charter schools outperformed district-managed secondary schools, with 54 percent rated as “good” or “excellent,” compared to only 46 percent of district-managed schools.” District-managed K-8 schools outperformed K-8 charter schools with 41 percent rated as “good” or “excellent,” compared to only 33 percent of K-8 charter schools.
Parents attending the summit supported replacing underperforming charter anddistrict schools with stronger operators, both charters and district school leaders. This can usually be done without disruption to the students, who remain in the school under new leadership.
But for parents at the summit, a quality charter school didn’t mean much without access to it. So The Memphis Lift’s highest priority is a universal enrollment system for all Memphis public schools, through which parents can use a single application to rank their top choice schools. The system then uses a lottery algorithm to match students to schools based on availability and preference. For low-income parents, universal enrollment systems help ensure equal access to quality schools. New Orleans, Denver, Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., Newark, and several other cities have adopted such systems, which include virtually all traditional and charter schools.
The third priority summit participants chose was improving transportation to schools, because many families simply cannot get their children to quality schools
Carpenter is excited about the future of The Memphis Lift, but she understands how much work still needs to be done. “We have made an impact on waking parents up about how this system is run…but we haven’t moved the needle enough,” she says.
Meanwhile, Carpenter has received multiple requests for advice on how to replicate The Memphis Lift model in other cities. Currently the organization is mentoring parent groups in St. Louis, Nashville, Atlanta, and Newark.
Despite her national notoriety and popularity with those in the education reform community, Carpenter is quick to remind us that, “Before I heard the term ‘ed reform,’ I was already advocating for kids in my community and my own kids, too!”
Her advice to parents with children in underperforming school districts is to first “get educated on the landscape of education…You can’t fight for anything if you don’t know what you’re fighting for.”
Follow Carpenter and The Memphis Lift on their website www.memphislift.orgor on Twitter @memphis_lift.
Brandon Gipson and Nigerian-born Oladipupo (Ola) Johnson both graduated from Georgia Tech in Spring 2018, with degrees in computer science and mechanical engineering, respectively. For both, it was community connections that helped lead them to Tech; the community they found here sustained them and was central to their college experience. But for Gipson, who came from a majority minority high school in Virginia, at times it was alienating.
Gipson was feeling what numbers show: Though Georgia Tech awards more engineering degrees to women and underrepresented minorities than any other university in the United States, black men comprise less than 5 percent of the resident student population.
To support black men at Tech, the school offers the African American Male Initiative, a University System of Georgia-funded initiative that provides academic resources, mentoring, and leadership training to enhance enrollment, retention, graduation and career placement.
The program began in 2011 with approximately 30 participants. Today, it counts 150 and has served more than 680 students since its inception. AAMI is based out of Tech’s OMED Educational Services, which is part of Institute Diversity…
Recently, in an article captioned, Turnaround office to begin work with failing Richmond County schools, the Augusta Chronicle reported, “Georgia Department of Education Chief Turn-around Officer Eric Thomas confirmed that his office has been invited by Richmond County School Superintendent Angela Pringle to begin work with some of the district’s 13 chronic-ally failing schools when the school year begins in August.”
Obviously, this was Pringle’s attempt to appear proactive. She was quoted as saying, “When you are working on behalf of children and you want all children to succeed, you put your ego aside and listen to others.” You also put your ego aside when your high paying job is on the line. The truth is, House Bill 338, directs the superintendent to listen and accept the advice of others or else.
Nevertheless, House Bill 338 was never meant to improve the overall academic success of the predominantly Black children which have been allowed to languish in failing schools. Apparently, the objective was not to turnaround schools to be successful, but to raise the schools a little higher from the bottom. The article quoted Thomas as saying, “Our objective is to have these schools no longer in the lowest 5 percent in the state, and once they are no longer in the lowest 5 percent in the state then we are not necessarily going to stay attached to them.”
In other words, show a slight improvement, give control back to the same incompetent leaders, and keep the school to prison pipeline intact.
June 5, 2018 – Georgia – both the Georgia Department of Education and local school districts – is receiving recognition from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its school nutrition program.
On May 17, USDA announced 2018 School Nutrition Best Practice Award winners for Georgia and the Southeast region. The Georgia Department of Education won two regional best practice awards, for “partnerships with other governmental or non-governmental organizations for food distribution” and for the Shake It Up initiative. A total of 37 Georgia school districts brought home regional or state-level best practice awards.
“We view school nutrition as more than an operational responsibility – it’s part of the education our students receive, and being well-nourished prepares students to learn and grow,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “I deeply appreciate the work of our school nutrition staff at the state and district level and wish to congratulate them on this prestigious recognition.”
GaDOE School Nutrition Director Nancy Rice added: “We take great pride in our school nutrition community’s commitment to best practices and want to thank them for working so hard to have the best possible school nutrition programs in all award categories. We will be recognizing the winners at the annual Georgia School Nutrition Association (GSNA) kickoff luncheon in the fall.”
May 19, 2018 – Allison Kerley Townsend, a third-grade teacher at Barnwell Elementary School in Fulton County, is the 2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year, State School Superintendent Richard Woods announced tonight. As Georgia Teacher of the Year, Townsend will serve as an advocate for public education in Georgia.
“It is very clear to me that Allison Kerley Townsend is a teacher who walks into her classroom every day with her focus in exactly the right place: what do these students in front of me need to learn, and how can I help them learn it?” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Then she brings all of her creativity, ingenuity and skill to the fore to accomplish that goal. I am honored to recognize her as the 2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year and look forward to working with her to tell the best story I know – the story of Georgia’s public schools, and the lives changing within them every single day.”
Townsend graduated from Clemson University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Since then, she has taught Pre-K, third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students.
As a teacher, Townsend strives to give each child a voice in their learning, and inspires them to grow beyond “engagement” to “ownership.” She came away from her time as a Pre-K teacher with the conviction that all children start out as curious and excited learners, and that her goal as an educator should be to nurture their passion for learning.
“Some people believe that children are the ‘leaders of tomorrow,’” Townsend said. “I like to challenge this idea. We cannot ignore the incredible impact children can have on the world today, if we let them. My mission is to help students take ownership of their learning and have an impact beyond the classroom…whether they are Skyping a scientist across the country, blogging about how they believe we should combat pollution, or sharing the inspiring music videos we create as a class.”
Townsend is also dedicated to having an impact on students and teachers beyond her own classroom and making her mark on education at the global level. From presenting at conferences to using Twitter as a window into her classroom, she has made connections with educators all over the world.
“I have helped a teacher in North Carolina design an authentic project-based learning unit for her students based on nutrition and fractions,” Townsend said. “I have Skyped with a teacher in Virginia to teach him how to implement student-led conferences. I have even had a teacher across the world in Vietnam reach out to me to let me know that she shared my students’ personal mission statements with her class, and that inspired them to write their own, too. I am passionate about inspiring students and teachers around the world and believe that our impact does not have to wait for ‘tomorrow.’ Every single one of us can help change the world today.”
As Georgia Teacher of the Year, Townsend will represent Georgia teachers by speaking to the public about the teaching profession and potentially conducting workshops and programs for educators. She will also participate in the competitive selection process for the 2019 National Teacher of the Year.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a big cheerleader for school choice. And way before she came into office, states around the country were adopting tax-credit scholarships, education savings accounts, and more.
So has all that translated into a big bonanza for school choice in states’ Every Student Succeeds Act plans? Not really.
To be sure, ESSA isn’t a school choice law. School choice fans in Congress weren’t able to persuade their colleagues to include Title I portability in the law, which would have allowed federal funding to follow students to the public school of their choice.
However, the law does has some limited avenues for states to champion various types of school choice options. But only a handful of states are taking advantage of those opportunities, according to reviews of the plans by Education Week and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
School Improvement: At least 12 states say they want schools that are perennially low-performing to consider reopening as charter schools to boost student achievement. Those states are Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.
Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.
The U.S. Department of Education has started informing a small group of states that they will have to make changes to the way they test students with severe cognitive disabilities, because of accountability changes brought about by the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Federal law permits students with the most severe cognitive disabilities to take an alternate assessment aligned to alternate achievement standards. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, the predecessor to the Every Student Succeeds Act, that assessment could be in the form of a portfolio, or collection of student work. But ESSA states that student assessments for accountability can only “be partially delivered in the form of portfolios, projects, or extended performance tasks,” meaning that states relying solely on portfolios have to make a change.
Officials at the U.S. Department of Education said that only a few state education agencies are expected to be affected by the requirement, and that so far, Georgia and Puerto Rico have been notified that they will have to change their testing procedures.
Allison Timberlake, Georgia’s deputy superintendent for assessment and accountability, said the state is reviewing the law and regulations but doesn’t anticipate a problem. The state is developing a new alternate assessment that will require students to perform standardized tasks, rather than relying solely on teachers collecting evidence of student performance.
“As we develop the new alternate assessment, we will review it to ensure it meets all federal requirements,” Timberlake said…
Read the full article here: May require an Education Week Subscription.
The Every Student Succeeds Act is supposed to bring about a big change in school improvement. The law says states and districts can use any kind of interventions they want in low-performing schools, as long as they have evidence to back them up.
But the provision has some experts worried. They’re concerned that there just aren’t enough strategies with a big research base behind them for schools to choose from. These experts also worried that district officials may not have the capacity or expertise to figure out which interventions will actually work.
Districts, they’ve said, may end up doing the same things they have before, and may end up getting the same results.
“My guess is, you’ll see a lot of people doing the things they were already doing,” said Terra Wallin, who worked as a career staffer at the federal Education Department on school turnaround issues and is now a consultant with Education First, a policy organization that is working with states on ESSA implementation. “You’ll see a lot of providers approaching schools or districts to say, ‘Look, we meet the evidence standard,'” Wallin said…
Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today new federal assistance for students and schools impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the 2017 California wildfires. An additional $2.7 billion, authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, will be used to help K-12 school districts and schools as well as institutions of higher education (IHEs) in their recovery efforts.
“The long road to recovery continues, but these funds should provide vital support to schools and institutions to help them return to their full capabilities as quickly and effectively as possible,” said Secretary DeVos. “I continue to be inspired every day by the dedication shown by educators, administrators and local leaders to getting students’ lives back to normal.”
Secretary DeVos has visited each of the hurricane-impacted areas and continues to be in frequent contact with education leaders as they restore their learning environments. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the Secretary deployed more than a dozen volunteers as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Surge Capacity Force across Florida, Puerto Rico, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Department continues to regularly send staff to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Island to provide on-site assistance.
The new Federal assistance announced today will allow the Department to launch the following programs:
(1) Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations (Restart)
Under this program, the Department is authorized to award funds to eligible State educational agencies (SEAs), including those of Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas and U.S. Virgin Islands. These SEAs, in turn, will provide assistance or services to local educational agencies (LEAs), including charter schools, and private schools to help defray expenses related to the restart of operations in, the reopening of, and the re-enrollment of students in elementary and secondary schools that serve an area affected by a covered disaster or emergency.
(2) Emergency Impact Aid for Displaced Students
Under this program, the Department will award Emergency Impact Aid funding to SEAs, which, in turn, will provide assistance to LEAs for the cost of educating students enrolled in public schools, including charter schools, and private schools, who were displaced by the hurricanes during the school year 2017-2018 and California wildfires in 2017.
Congress appropriated a combined amount of approximately $2.5 billion for both the Restart and Emergency Impact Aid for Displaced Student programs. The amounts awarded under each program will be based on demand and specific data received from eligible applicants.
(3) Assistance for Homeless Children and Youth
Congress appropriated $25 million for additional grants to SEAs for LEAs to address the needs of homeless students displaced by the covered disasters and emergencies. The Department anticipates using data on displaced public school students collected under the Emergency Impact Aid program to make allocations to SEAs under the Assistance for Homeless Children and Youths program. SEAs will award subgrants to LEAs on the basis of demonstrated need. LEAs must use the funds awarded under this program to support activities that are allowable under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
(4) Emergency Assistance to Institutions of Higher Education
Congress appropriated $100 million for this program, which will provide emergency assistance to IHEs and their students in areas directly affected by the covered disasters or emergencies, for activities authorized under the Higher Education Act of 1965.
(5) Defraying Costs of Enrolling Displaced Students in Higher Education
Congress appropriated $75 million for this program, which will provide payments to IHEs to help defray the unexpected expenses associated with enrolling displaced students from IHEs directly affected by a covered disaster or emergency, in accordance with criteria to be established and made publicly available.
The Department will be sharing additional information soon, including the application packages and technical assistance, on its “Disaster Relief” webpage at https://www.ed.gov/disasterrelief.
For additional information on the programs for K-12 schools and school districts, please contact David Esquith, Director, Office of Safe and Healthy Students, at David.Esquith@ed.gov. For additional information on the programs for IHEs, please contact Adam Kissel, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Higher Education Programs, Office of Postsecondary Education, at Adam.Kissel@ed.gov.
Public schools in the nation’s capital recently reported that the graduation rate for 2017 was the highest in the school system’s history.
According to school officials, about 73 percent of Washington public schools’ students graduated on time, another record high for a school system that had struggled years ago to graduate even half of its students. The graduation rate marked a four-point rise from the previous year and a 20-point gain from 2011, when just over half of D.C. Public School students graduated within four years.
In response, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser proudly described the school system as the “fastest improving urban school district in the country.
“These graduation rates are a reminder that when we have high expectations for our young people and we back up those expectations with robust programs and resources, our students can and will achieve at high levels,” Bowser said in a statement.
But it was all false. A report by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education shows more than one of every three diplomas awarded to students were not earned. The report found that 937 out of 2,758 graduates of D.C. public schools did not meet the minimum attendance requirements needed for graduation. Teachers even admit to falsely marking students present.
Washington is the latest of a series of public school systems found guilty of widespread cheating. Similar cheating was found in public schools in Philadelphia, New York City, Chicago, Memphis, Los Angeles, Columbus, Ohio, and Atlanta.
The perpetrators in these scandals weren’t the students but the administrators and teachers. Both have admitted to falsifying records on standardized tests, graduation requirements and student grades.
In response, some teachers have been fired and stripped of their licenses to teach again. In other places like Atlanta, teachers and administrators have gone to jail. In Washington, D.C., Antwan Wilson, District of Columbia schools chancellor, resigned Feb. 20 after it was revealed he used his position to get his daughter into a preferred school.
The real culprit in these cheating scandals, according to education experts and teachers, is the increased — and some say unfair — pressure on education officials from the government to meet a certain level of student performance. If they don’t meet the mandated standards, school systems could lose funding, and with less money to pay for staff and supplies some people could lose their jobs.
President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015 and former President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top created an “accountability system,” education experts said, linking student performance to Title I funding, which are federal grants given to schools with a high percentage of low-income students.
No Child Left Behindwas the first law requiring federally-mandated tests to measure student performance. Prior to the law, states and cities used achievement tests to measure what students were learning to decide how effective their instruction was and what changes they might make.
Harvard professor Dan Koretz, author of the book The Teaching Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better, said cheating by teachers — in many cases sanctioned or encouraged by administrators — is fueled by the misuse of standardized tests to measure school performance which has pressured teachers to raise scores beyond what is reasonable.
“Some cheat and, ironically, all of these shortcuts undermine the usefulness of tests for their intended purpose—monitoring what kids know,” Koretz said.
Koretz and other education experts believe standardized tests can be a useful measure of students’ knowledge, when used correctly.
A survey by the Washington Teacher’s Union and EmpowerED echoes Koretz’s assertion that teachers feel pressure to cheat. The survey found that almost 60 percent of teachers said that they’ve felt pressure or coercion from superiors to pass undeserving students.
“There has been strenuous pressure to hit specific targets regardless of student performance or attendance,” an anonymous D.C. public school teacher said on the survey.
Another teacher said, “Administrators, parents, and teachers just want good grades so the school system and the student look accomplished on paper.”
A study conducted by the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization, showed that over 45 percent of Black students nationwide attend these low-income or high poverty public schools. Meanwhile, only 8 percent of White students attend these same schools.
Education expert Morgan Polikoff, a professor of education at the University of Southern California, said the result is that cheating is found primarily among majority-Black schools, which lack the educational tools and support they need in order to adequately serve their students.
“There are teachers who’ve felt pressure because they don’t feel that they have the capacity or support to achieve expectations through realistic measures,” Polikoff said.
Koretz said the cheating underscores the fallacy of rewarding and punishing schools based on standardized tests.
The answer “is to reduce the pressure to meet arbitrary targets,” he said. “Another is to routinely monitor how schools are reaching their targets. Yet another is to broaden the focus of accountability in schools to create a more reasonable mix of incentives.”