Seattle Education

For the news and views you might have missed

The inherent racism of Summit “public” (charter) school

drinking2bfountains

Putting students in front of a computer and expecting them to have a “quality” education, a principal who has no accreditation as a teacher or a principal, a demand for time and money from mostly low income parents…how would this play out in Queen Anne? But it’s OK for minority students on the south end of Seattle? To me this is blatant racism.

Summit Sierra charter school (which is calling itself Summit public school in Seattle) will be opening as a high school in Seattle in the International District in 2015.

Let’s take a look at Summit and why I state their programs are based on racial bias.  I’ll start with this banner headline that appears on the Summit Sierra website.  WE PROVIDE A PERSONALIZED AND RIGOROUS EDUCATION FOR EVERY STUDENT. Personalized? Exactly what does that mean?   “Personalized” means placing a student in front of a computer so that they can take in the material at their own pace. This is also referred to as “Blended Learning”. There was this conversation I had with a reader in a previous post titled Summit (Sierra) charter school: The skinny on the Gates-backed school set for Seattle, Brad Bernatek (remember him?) and a host of others:

Reader: Anonymous

As a student at summit charter school in san jose, it is terrible the things we go through. All unseasoned teachers. I have started losing my education since they rolled out the “go at your own pace” learning last year. Terrible things.

My reply to Anonymous:

Is the “go at your own pace” learning based on using a computer instead of being in a classroom with a teacher?   Any additional insight you can provide to us would be invaluable.

Answer: rwc

Yes. “Go at your own pace”, means go through the online material as fast or as slow as you would like.   The notable anonymity of my post and those mentioned therein is due to the general lack of trust of those in power at SPS, and the stark “at any cost” pursuit of “success” regardless of the effect on individual students. The cognitive dissonance is startling.

So much for the idea of personalized education. A private school this is not, although that’s the underlying and deceptive message.

See “Online (Blended) Learning” for additional information on the subject.

And who is behind this notion of computers taking over what a professional teacher is far more capable of doing?   … in 2011 the Gates Foundation gave $50,000 to Summit Institute: “TO ACCELERATE THE IMPACT AND QUALITY OF THE CLASSROOM ROTATIONAL BLENDED MODEL OF INSTRUCTION FOR 208 9TH GRADE STUDENTS AT SUMMIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS: RAINIER AND TAHOMA IN SAN JOSE CALIFORNIA”   Over the last three years, Bill Gates has provided Summit charter schools with a total of $4,975,000.

Why is it OK for Summit to have “a particular focus on either Southwest or Southeast communities” but not, let’s say, Queen Anne, Magnolia, Seward Park or Bill Gates’ alma mater, Lakeside High School? Don’t all parents want their children in front of a computer the majority of the school day? No? Then why is it OK for students of color and our newest immigrants to be put in front of a computer and call it education?

Now let’s take a look at the future Principal of Summit Sierra charter school, Melia Burns. 

Ms. Burns started out in the field of education as a Teach for America, Inc. (TFA) recruit. To “teach” as a recruit requires a Bachelors degree in any subject and five weeks of training. Then you are placed in a school, usually a charter school, although TFA has broadened its scope to anywhere it can get into a public school district.  Ms. Burns was in the program for two years.  Then she was a Program Coordinator at the Umoja Student Development Corporation for one year. After Ms. Burns one year stint at Umoja Corporation, she taught at the Noble Network charter school for two years, then became Dean at the same school for two years. That means that Ms. Burns has a total of four years teaching as a non-accredited teacher in two charter schools. Now she will be the Principal at a Summit charter high school.   Would that be OK in the Seattle Public School system? Of course not, but it’s OK for a charter school located in Southeast Seattle that will host mostly minority and immigrant students.

Why is it OK for Gates to experiment on other people’s children, mainly children of color? (See: Bill Gates, Mike Dell, Jeff Bezos and Jim Spady thinks it’s OK to use our minority students as test subjects ). Is that OK with you? Would it be OK for your children?

What Summit demands of parents:

According to the Everest Parent Organization website, which is the parent organization associated with Summit-Everest, it is required that parents or guardians put in 30 hours of volunteer time with the school each year, 50 hours if you have two students attending the charter school. That’s a lot of time if you’re working full-time or holding down two jobs as many are doing to make it through these difficult financial times. It also helps keep the school’s cost down. Yes, parental involvement is important and ideal but many parents hardly have the time to work, return home, make dinner and help with homework. As a working single mom while my daughter was in school, I know what that’s like firsthand.

Along with volunteer time, they ask that parents “donate” $500 for each student attending this charter school.   I truly wonder what the Charter School Commission was thinking when they approved this school for Seattle. Did they actually read the website?   The Summit charter school in Seattle is to be located in the south end of Seattle and supposedly drawing on minority students who live in the area.   How many parents do you think in the low-income area will be able to come up with $450 per student and at least 30 hours of volunteer time?

This process is called “cherry picking” and used by many charter schools. It allows entry of only students whose families have the wherewithal or motivation to be involved with their student’s education. That’s a very nice idea but isn’t what a public school is about. There is no reason for Summit Sierra to think it’s OK to call itself a “public school”. It isn’t.

Summit’s attrition rate:

To follow is a statement from a parent in Oakland who has been following Summit charter schools in California and made me aware of Summit charter school:.

Summit Prep lost 18.86% of its class of ’13 between freshman year and the beginning of senior year — I don’t have information on the number who graduated. It lost 26% of its Latino students (the most significant nonwhite group) in that time. Again, we don’t know how many graduated.

Standard charter practice is to push out the less successful students before graduation and then tout the percentage of the remaining number who graduate and go to college, so even though not all of them presumably do that, those claims have no credibility whatsoever and should just be shrugged off.

From my previous post on Summit charter school:

The facilities for Summit will be paid for by Gates through the Washington State Facilities Fund and leased to Summit at “sustainable rates”.

In a field report titled “Greenlighting 2015″ that was sent to me regarding Summit’s plan for our children’s future and was discussed at a Summit board meeting, their plan is to establish four schools in seven different districts in Washington State, two in the fall of 2015 and two in 2016 According to this field report, Summit has questions about how much of the Seattle school levy budget they will receive. “The thinking is that the first charters approved will be the first ones to get access to the levies.

Here are comments that were written by a parent who experienced Summit Sierra charter schools in response to my post Summit (Sierra) charter school: The skinny on the Gates-backed school set for Seattle, Brad Bernatek (remember him?) and a host of others:

March 1, 2014

As a parent of a Summit Public Schools (SPS) charter school student (north of San Jose) I strongly caution any parent considering sending their child to a Summit high school as things currently stand. If you are hoping to transfer in to a junior or senior opening (there are likely plenty of openings due to attrition), for the sake of your student, find a predictable school with a stable teaching model where your student can focus on studying without having to learn how to overcome all the challenges of the “Blended Learning System”.

To clarify “Summit Public Schools” (SPS) is the independent overseeing organization which manages/presides over the (currently) 6 charter high schools, include Summit Public High School, Everest Public High School, Rainer,… It decides the overlying initiatives, infrastructure and lay of the land for the individual charter schools.   The blended learning environment suggests a variety of learning or teaching approaches and is largely a misnomer. The core academic teaching curriculum is delivered in all on-line media at my child’s school, i.e. slide presentations (like a PowerPoint), Google docs to read, YouTube video’s, and links to other web-sites for further research. A more honest name would be “online multimedia learning system”.

We were told the radical drive toward this new revolution since the previous years (my child had solid grades from the prior 3 years) was due to students leaving high school without being four-year college ready. Sanity check: this Blended Learning Environment is perfect prep for an online degree, but not for a four-year college.

Granted, there are some good things happening. These are mostly exceptions to SPS’s wishes. One teacher bravely delivered in-person lectures, workshops, etc. in my child’s entire academic career this subject has been an ongoing struggle until this year. Now this subject is by far my teenager’s favored and most successful subject. We applaud the teaching model demonstrated by this fearless teacher. Another teacher returned to giving in person lectures/workshops (as in a traditional high school class) a few months ago; after 5-10 of these, they’re back to the blended learning system again for that subject. The other subjects are all ‘taught’ 100% via the ‘blended’ learning system.

….

Some key changes you need to know about when the Blended Learning Environment was introduced: There are three types of work to be done: 1. Basic curriculum modules (“Power Focus Areas”, all content (playlists) are delivered online, and an online assessment taken to ensure understanding); 2. Project work (often group-based); 3. Additional curriculum modules (“Additional Focus Areas”, same as basic but more challenging content)   The ways this actually plays out is the student must pass all Basic content assessments at 70%.   This is mandatory and half of the requirement to achieve a C- grade. This means re-doing playlists and re-taking the assessment for the same module over and over again, until they achieve a 70% passing grade. If your child passes on the first or second attempt, it is productive and reasonable. However, if your child is passing after between 4 to 10 attempts (common) it is taking them 3 to 4 times as long to achieve that most basic of passing grades.   Projects are supposed to take up 70% of the students’ time, but with so much effort required to pass the basic modules there is little time to do this. Projects must also be passed at 70% as the other half of the requirement to attaining a C- grade for the subject for the year. For some it is taking 70% of their time to pass the content assessments for the Power Focus areas alone.

Additional focus areas also have assessments and contribute toward raising your grade off the C- floor. A higher than 70% score on a project also contributes to a higher than C- grade.   The “pioneering” CEO of SPS is dangerously out of touch with reality, out of touch with what our students at the schools governed by SPS have gone through this year, and engaged headlong on a mission which correlates less with the success of the SPS schools’ students and more with her own political success. She is absolutely resolute and unwavering from her vision. Distraught students, high attrition numbers, letters of complaint, student petitions, innumerable parental visits with principles, and student’s failures and need to repeat a year cannot sway her.

Shenanigans? Advertising for the forthcoming year’s freshman intake has been focused on the more prestigious neighboring cities of Menlo Park, Palo Atherton and Atherton, and Portola Valley, while ominously avoiding the less affluent Redwood City, East Palo Alto.

Putting students in front of a computer and expecting them to have a “quality” education, a Principal who has no accreditation as a teacher or a principal, a demand for time and money from mostly low income parents…how would this play out in Queen Anne? But it’s OK for minority students? To me this is blatant racism.

Dora Taylor

Post Script:  

It’s been my sense that Bill Gates has dried up the coffers of public education in our state by not paying his fair share of taxes, along with Boeing, Microsoft and Amazon (Jeff Bezos). Because of that, he and a handful of other wealthy individuals are able to buy control of our public schools.

See: Has Microsoft’s Tax Policy Hurt Washington State’s Ability To Pay For Schools? http://www.kplu.org/post/has-microsoft-s-tax-policy-hurt-washington-state-s-ability-pay-schools

9 comments on “The inherent racism of Summit “public” (charter) school

  1. Pingback: An interview with Washington State Superintendent Candidate Erin Jones | Parents Across America Puget Sound

  2. Pingback: An interview with Washington State Superintendent Candidate Erin Jones | Stop Common Core in Washington State

  3. Robin
    March 2, 2016

    Dora I really want to understand the problems with charter schools. I’m confused by your arguments–are the schools (in this blog post) targeting high-poverty minority families/neighborhoods and providing sub-par educational models, or are they pulling resources (volunteer hours/cash) from public schools by targeting families who can afford the extras required for attendance?
    My gut feeling is negative about charters but I need a compelling argument.

    • seattleducation2010
      March 3, 2016

      Yes, charter schools do not have to hire certified teachers as public schools do. That is why Teach for America is popular with charter schools. The TFA recruits usually do not have a degree in education, don’t have a job straight out of school and want something to put on their resume. TFA trains these recruits for five weeks and then places them in charter school which are, for the most part, in minority neighborhoods. The TFA recruits sign on for two years and most leave at that time, if not before theor contract is up. This creates churn in a charter school and a lack of stability within the school community but…it’s cheaper for the charter school and therefore more profit.

      You will not see this practice in white middle class or upper middle class neighborhood.

      Look at Seattle. Greendot and Summit have targeted our minority communities.

      There is usually a “No Excuse” policy which is harsh and I would not find it acceptable in a school my daughter attended.

      Finally, people see this privatization as a cash cow and that turns my stomach, thinking that students are seen as dollar signs and not much more.

      See https://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/charter-schools/what-is-a-charter-school/ for more information.

      Dora

    • Rational Person
      March 4, 2016

      Robin, if you really want to understand, please go visit charter schools and talk to charter families and/or teachers. The arguments provided here are heavily biased and/or incorrect. It’s not a matter of “targeting” low-income communities. Talk about spin. Charters go to these communities because parents and local community members ask for them to open because they are dissatisfied with their local public school options, and/or because many charters are established with the mission of eliminating the achievement gap between poor and wealthy students and believe they can offer a unique tool that can help kids who are not being served by their current schools. Clearly, parents in these communities agree, otherwise they wouldn’t sign up or keep their students in these schools.

      Charters in WA and other places with tight charter laws are in no way “profiting” from the schools. The idea that they are just belies incredible ignorance about how schools work. Charters need every dollar they get to operate and serve students, as they are public schools and serve every student who applies (or makes it through a lottery). There is no $ for “profit” left over.

      Teachers at WA charter schools who teach core subject like math, English, science, etc, do need to be fully certified.

      There is not “usually” a “no excuse” policy. That is patently false. It depends on the school system, and many regular public schools have systems of discipline that end up being just as, if not more, harsh. Many charters are using the system of restorative justice now, even if they had a “no excuses” policy in the past. Many charters have a level of social-emotional support that regular schools do not have, like a mentor group that has a faculty head and acts like a family for the entire time the student is at that school. Most charters are small, which means the student gets to know and build positive relationships with several adults.

      There is absolutely no evidence that anyone working in the charter movement in WA sees kids or their families as dollar signs. That is absolutely ridiculous. Tell me – who specifically is making money here beyond a normal education-level salary, not known for its opulence? The charter leader? The teachers? Please. If people in the charter movement were interested in a cash cow, you don’t think they would have chosen a very different profession and way to make money?

      For what it’s worth, I’m not a lobbyist. I’m just a teacher who has taught in both charter and district schools. Neither is perfect, but there is something really special about the advantages of a mission-driven charter school and it’s abilities to create a positive, personal environment for kids. These fear-mongering bloggers are not telling the full picture.

  4. Anonymous
    January 12, 2016

    I
    hope they close tbh

  5. Aduna
    May 14, 2015

    Zion Prep Academy, which was a primarily African American school had the same volunteer requirement and a donation of $400.
    Such requests are commonplace in private schools.

    • seattleducation2010
      May 14, 2015

      True, but charter schools tout themselves as public schools although there is no public oversight.

      The only thing “public” about charter schools is they take taxpayer dollars.

      Dora

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: