Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Deep in the Heart of Texas

I wondered recently about Commissioner of Education Shirley Neeley's resistance to NCLB standards. It seemed out of place, especially when Gov. Perry said he supported her.

Well, it now seems that Bush adviser Sandy Kress has encouraged Neeley and the Texas Education Agency to muscle up. The result is astounding. From the Dallas Morning News:

TEA stiffens school rating system
Many more schools will be
'unacceptable'; bill could spur privatization

By JOSHUA BENTON / The Dallas Morning News
The number of schools the state considers failing will skyrocket next year under a tougher accountability system approved by state Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley. And a new Senate proposal could pave the way to dozens or hundreds of those failing schools being taken over by private companies.
...The confluence of two distinct shifts in the Texas education world has some
wondering whether schools are being set up for failure.
"There are people out there promoting the idea that public schools are bad," said John Cole, president of the Texas Federation of Teachers. "You'd almost forget that we have a president who ran on the idea that he had fixed the schools in Texas."
Dr. Neeley formally approved the new system Monday after more than a month of consideration by Texas Education Agency committees and staff members. Starting next year, the passing rate schools have to reach to be "academically acceptable" will increase by 10 percentage points in reading, writing, social studies and science. In math, the required passing rate will increase 5 points.
That – combined with other changes in the accountability system – will make it much harder for schools to stay out of the ratings gutter. Last year, 92 Texas schools were labeled unacceptable. If the new standards had been in place, 1,213 schools would have received the tag. Texas has about 7,700 public schools.

That's about 1 out of every 6 public schools. But keep reading:

But if Ms. Shapiro's bill becomes law, many of those schools would be managed by private – perhaps for-profit – companies. Under her proposal, any school that is rated unacceptable for two years must be removed from the control of the local school board and handed off to "alternative management."
The most likely candidates for such management would be school management companies.
The best-known is Edison, a for-profit company that has managed public schools in Dallas and elsewhere. It's received mixed reviews; many of the districts that've
worked with Edison, such as Dallas, have severed ties to the company.

They're not just mixed. The record of for-profit companies is abysmal. But don't worry, Sen Shapiro says they won't necessarily be for-profit companies:

Ms. Shapiro emphasized that "alternative management" does not necessarilymean a for-profit company. "It could be a group of parents that wants to do a better job," she said. "It could be UT-Austin or UT-Dallas or a school with a college of education. I think we're focusing too much on the potential of a for-profit management team."
But her bill includes language that appears to favor established companies over upstarts. The bill requires anyone wishing to take over a school to have "documented success in whole school interventions that increased the educational and performance levels of students in low-performing campuses."
Her bill is a Senate substitute to House Bill 2, the school finance bill passed last month by the Legislature's lower chamber. The House bill contained a similar private-management provision. But instead of tying takeovers to the "unacceptable" label, it targeted schools whose test scores ranked in the bottom 5 percent of the state.
That change makes Dr. Neeley's change to the definition of "unacceptable" more important. Under current law, schools rated unacceptable for several years can be subject to dissolution by the commissioner. But that tool has been used rarely.
Ms. Shapiro's proposal removes much of the commissioner's leeway in determining whether intervention is appropriate.

In other words, the "unacceptable" schools must be taken over. Must. Be. Privatized.

If you live in Texas, call your representative and senator and tell them you oppose this. Please.


Blogger Kimberly said...

check this one out. i thought of you...


6:53 PM  

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