If you follow LAUSD issues in the news you will have heard of the newly proposed School Performance Framework, a rating system ostensibly meant to improve something about schools but much more likely to be part of the wicked plans of its proponents, Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez, to break up our public school system and hand over the still-valuable fragments to their zillionaire masters in the charter school industrial complex.
Whatever the ultimate purpose, though, of this proposal, and despite the fact that it was written for Melvoin by the privatizers themselves, it nevertheless has at least some charter schools very nervous about how they might fare under the new rating standards, which would correlate to some extent with measurable quantities, like e.g. student test results and course grades and which would rate each school on a highly simplified five star scale.
In particular amongst the anxious ones there are our old friends at The Accelerated Schools, whose August board meeting I managed to videotape a few weeks ago, capturing, among other interesting episodes, a weirdo white supremacist soliloquy by board president Juli Quinn. And among these episodes was a discussion led by TAS1 supreme commander of secondary instruction Robert “Bobby” Canosa-Carr about the proposed rating system.
This is a remarkable performance, by the way, and worth your time to watch starting here, in which Canosa-Carr explains the rating system to his masters on the board. His main point is that TAS comes out better if students are assessed by their growth rather than by their achievement. This sounds like a fairly normal debate among educationalists, but then when AP classes come up the discussion veers sharply into the surreal.
It seems that one of the new factors for rating high schools is AP class pass rate. Interestingly but maybe tangentially, board president Juli Quinn didn’t even know if the schools she runs even have enough AP classes to be rated under this factor (short answer: they do). This sets Bobby off on an astonishing rant, transcribed in its entirety at the end of this post.
He states that there’s quite a bit of research indicating that simply enrolling in an AP course provides long-term educational benefits to students. And that if LAUSD is all of a sudden going to rate schools on whether students pass AP classes, or the AP test at the end of the year, well, that’s going to play merry hell with TAS’s rating because:
… schools like ours, that traditionally emphasize getting as many students as possible, even those who might not meet traditional prerequisites for entering an AP course, into those courses to expose them to college level reading through rigorous instruction knowing that even if they don’t pass that assessment at the end of the year they’re going to get long term benefits … ultimately will [be discouraged] from enrolling students who may be less prepared for those classes in those courses.
Translate this back into English and what we have is Bobby Canosa-Carr admitting on camera that TAS puts a lot of unprepared students into AP classes even knowing that they don’t have the skills to pass. Predictably the students fail the classes, or don’t pass their AP tests at the end of the year. High AP enrollment makes TAS look good. But if LAUSD rates TAS on the basis of AP pass rate rather than AP enrollment TAS will look bad. So TAS will have to stop enrolling unprepared students in AP classes if they want to keep looking good.
He does briefly refer self-servingly to “research indicating that simply enrolling in an AP course provides long-term educational benefits to students” even though anyone who actually cares about the well-being of students can see immediately that this is wrong. The only long term effect of this practice is going to be a sense of failure, of inability, instilled in these helpless children by a school that prioritizes a rating system over the best interests of its students.
I don’t even believe there is any such research, or if there is, that it’s anything more than privatizer propaganda ginned up by academic charter school enablers. I couldn’t find any research at all on this. If you have any idea what he might be talking about, any examples of research showing that it’s good to put unprepared kids in AP classes, good for the kids, that is, knowing they’re very likely to fail, please leave cites in the comments.
What is actually happening here, despite the flowery rhetoric of Bobby Canosa-Carr, is that TAS has been harming students by setting them up to fail courses, by teaching them that they’re incapable of college level work instead of giving the kids the remediation they need in order to be able to succeed in college. They are sacrificing these children’s educations merely to bolster TAS’s ratings on some scale that rewards them for this cannibalism. Now they’re unhappy that LAUSD proposes not even to put an end to this ongoing harm to their students’ futures but just to expose it to parents. This is how ultra-hypocritical charter school propaganda about putting kids first plays out in actual charter schools.
By the way, it’s comparatively easy for me to talk theoretically about why charter schools aren’t a good idea, about the lack of political control over their activities, and so on. Abstractly this is upsetting, yes, but only upsetting abstractly, intellectually.
On the other hand, attending their meetings, seeing first hand how they repeatedly sacrifice the children entrusted to their care, experiencing their offhanded disdain for the actual lives of these kids, is upsetting on a completely different level. It’s almost more horrible than I can bear.
I can’t understand how anyone could be exposed to these people and still think it’s a good idea to hand children over to them for any reason at all. It is not. But given that children are being handed over to them, continuing to monitor their activities certainly is a good idea.
Transcription of Bobby Canosa-Carr’s speech:
Bobby Canosa-Carr: So to give you some context to this emphasis on growth as opposed to the traditional metric of achievement I want to give you some sense as to where this fits in to the big picture, not only in terms of what we’re trying to achieve for our students but also in terms of how we’re being measured and assessed by outside organizations. LAUSD is rolling out a new school performance framework this year that will be applied to all LA Unified schools and all charter schools that are overseen by LA Unified. It will look significantly different to the public than what the public is used to seeing when they look at our data over the past several years. You see here an example of a five star system that simply rates all schools, both LAUSD and LAUSD overseen charters, as a one star school, a two star school, and so on up to five stars. It makes it very simple for the public to make a value judgment over whether or not this is a good school. Or whether or not one school is a better school than another one. The downside to this is that it removes all the complexity out of this and allows for the public to simply look at that five star rating without considering all the factors that feed into that. And knowing that different parents might be more interested in seeing our performance on certain metrics within that than that overarching goal. The bottom line though is that by this Spring every one of our schools along with every other public school in Los Angeles will have a five star rating published on a public website. Now, I want to expose you, and this is just a beginning conversation around this, there are obviously much longer conversations to be had, but these are the metrics that will feed into that five star rating that we will receive for each one of our schools. For elementary and middle schools forty five percent of that rating will be based on growth, thirty five percent will be based on achievement and twenty percent will be based on school climate. I’ll pause for a minute to give you a second to take a look at all of the different metrics that are used to determine those factors and ask any questions that you might have about that.
Juli Quinn: This is the [unintelligible]
Bobby Canosa-Carr: Yes. I want to particularly emphasize the difference between growth and achievement in that when we talk about achievement we are holding all students to the same standard. We are simply saying “how high did you score on particular tests?” and we are not considering the starting point of that student. Growth considers the starting point of that student. And so a growth metric actually gives us a much more accurate picture of how we as a school are performing in relation to other schools that may have very different populations in their system. So for example a school where all students are entering already reading at or above grade level, where all students are entering with various types of privilege and advantage, their achievement scores might look higher than ours but they’re not achieving growth. Knowing that we are intentionally serving students that often do not have the type of privilege that other systems might have built into the community we want to emphasize on how we’re helping them grow toward achievement. Thinking ahead now to the same information but for high schools. You’ll notice that the numbers are adjusted slightly to compensate for the addition of the last column, college and career readiness. And I’ll pause again here for you to process this information. Any questions on the high school metrics?
Juli Quinn: Um, AP pass rate? Do we have enough AP classes for us to even be eligible in that particular category?
Bobby Canosa-Carr: We do. That is a complex factor to consider in terms of the reputation of the school because there are metrics out there that emphasize AP enrollment rate because there’s quite a bit of research indicating that simply enrolling in an AP course provides long-term educational benefits to students. And so schools like ours, that traditionally emphasize getting as many students as possible, even those who might not meet traditional prerequisites for entering an AP course, into those courses to expose them to college level reading through rigorous instruction knowing that even if they don’t pass that assessment at the end of the year they’re going to get long term benefits. This metric, though, focusing on pass rate, ultimately will discourage schools from enrolling students who may be less prepared for those classes in those courses. So again, there are many, many very long, very in depth conversations to be had about these metrics and how we respond to them but this is simply what we have and this is the information that’s going to feed into this particular [unintelligible].
Image of Bobby Canosa-Carr is ©2019 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and has some long-lost something to do with this little item.