Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sacramento Unified Superintendent Resigns. Why this direction of school reform did not work.

Sacramento City Unified Superintendent Jonathon Raymond has resigned.  He will leave the district in December. Raymond was one of a number of national superintendents trained by the Broad Superintendents Academy- a project of the Broad Foundation.   Michelle Rhee serves on the advisory committee for the “Academy”. This is a significant part of Broad and corporate guided  strategy for school “reform”.  See prior articles by Randy Shaw and Joanne  Barkan, among others,    on the limits of this reform movement.
The district hired Raymond, and received Broad Foundation support, in an attempt to raise the achievement scores of public schools.  However, Raymond served during the last 4 years of economic crisis while state imposed budget cuts prevented many improvements.
Particularly divisive has been the decision to close seven low income elementary campuses.  This strategy of closing schools in minority districts has been used by Broad Foundation alumni in cities around the nation, including Chicago, Philadelphia and others.  The Foundation has a guidebook for how to select and to close these schools.
No Superintendent, no leader, can be individually faulted for failure to significantly improve scores in low income schools in a period when the per pupil expenditures were reduced by over $1,000 per student.
Increasing student poverty, as documented by economist Joseph Stiglitz, and Robert Reich, among others, explains a significant part of why U.S. in falling further behind other countries school achievement.   “When you break down the various test scores, you find that high income kids are high achievers and they are holding their own and more.” According to Micheal Rebell  the executive director of the campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia University.

“It’s when you start getting down to schools with a majority of low-income ids that you get the astoundingly low scores.   Our real problem regarding educational outcomes is not the U.S. overall, it’s the growing low income population.”
The major approaches to improve education, as extensively documented here,  the rise of standardized testing,  attempting to hold teachers accountable for test scores, writing new math and reading standards (The Common Core) don’t address poverty.
Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute says, “If you take children who come to school from families with low literacy, war are not read to at home, who have poor health, - all of these social and economic problems- and just say that you are going to test the children and have high expectations and their achievement will go up, it doesn’t work. “
Instead of this approach, the schools need to understand the lives and cultures of these students, the low income majorities in many schools.
Teacher preparation programs to prepare teachers specifically for these schools are being shut down around the nation- including at CSU Sacramento.
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