Let’s keep “choice” honest

Instead of repeating the words choice and accountability as if they are stand alone solutions and suggesting that the most important results are linked to fudge-able stats (test scores, graduation rates…) we should be demanding real educational accountability- for honesty; for integrity; for the good of all children, not just the ones with parents equipped to participate in the “choice” market.

And while those streaking across our public commons with their shiny, well-funded behinds hanging out, waving a banner saying “Me saying ‘accountability’ proves how much I care about the poors” can appear honest-we never really get into HOW the exemplar supposed stellar performing charter schools achieve their results.

This should also be part of the conversation.

Now I am fully in favor of parental right to choose. My wife and I  spent a lot of our time chasing down choices that according to regulations should have been available, and then got told it depends on whether a school can afford to or wants to provide them. When alternative choices or settings exist, parents should be free to choose them but better questions would be:

  1. Why are our traditional schools not empowered to bring Al Shanker’s original vision for locally controlled, professionally driven charters to life within the public school system?
  2. Why all the praise for the opaque, privately controlled, selective charters who are held up for comparisons to disrespected and underfunded traditional schools?

A prime example is Success Academy’s Eva Moskowitz who has been clear and proud about how she keeps some students out, gets rid of others, refused to sign standard preK contracts for funding then claims that holding her to them hurts children.

“If they backfilled older grades, [Moskowitz] said, the incoming students’ lower relative academic preparation would adversely affect the schools’ other students.”

Traditional, truly public schools are not free to operate this way and their doors are open to any student coming to them regardless of their readiness to learn. They don’t filter their enrollments to artificially stroke and protect their testing and graduation stats (ala’ Moskowitz). They plow ahead, underfunded and over-mandated, trying to meet the needs of a mixed group of students that include top students and peers needing maximum support. It’s not just disingenuous to disparage obligation and prop up artifice-it’s shameful.

And yet every time a pro-choicer wants to prove the value of “choice”, Moskowitz’s “high performing” Success Academy is held up like a beacon with little examination of how she and the school is allowed to operate in order to make protecting those results first (putting students second). Not only is she more than willing to defend how the school filters in and pushes out students, she is shameless in her self-promotion, willing to  empty her schools of staff and students to lobby in the streets for her private, selective enterprise during school time! 

AND she had the nerve to call it a civics field trip or something. But who wrote that lesson plan?

“An option was not presented. The schools assigned everyone with a job, so you were either going to be an instructional coach or a bus captain,” one teacher explained. “They weren’t really asking us if that’s what we wanted to do. They were telling us that that’s what we were going to do instead of teaching for the day.”

Can you imagine the Education Post articles that would have been written if local schools had done this in order to push for and end to the ongoing failure of the Governor to meet public school funding obligations?

I do believe high quality choice means honest choice through valid comparison of earned (not manufactured) results that include test scores but go beyond.

Maybe the NAACP has some ideas on how to make this happen. Some way where we can have honest choices and valid comparisons instead of transparent campaigns to undermine schools that belong to the public.

Questions to accompany The Flying Machine

If you haven’t yet, read it here first and then consider these for thought/discussion:

 

  1. Does this story lead you to believe the people of China are better off because of Emperor Juan’s rule over them?
  2. What does the story say either about the sacrifices made for the benefits of safety, beauty, tranquility –as opposed to the benefits and beauty to be found breaking away from safety and security?
  3. Does Emperor Juan serve his own priorities first, or his people’s?

 

These are questions I got into with my girls when I shared this story (and I’ve been tempted to do a drama club production but an on-stage beheading in a public school serving a tiny community where I teach and everyone knows me is just unfeasible). When I get the chance to sip some wine and talk deep with friends from way back it’s usually analyzing stories and current events this way, and whenever possible I like to push students to see what might be under the words written and be able to explain it in their conversation and their writing while referring to the text.

We ALL owe more to our students than just “choice”

As a teacher, I understand we need to be doing more for more students. The fact is that billionaires, corporations, and the politicians who we believe we elect have done so much damage that more and more children need our help. These “elected” are clearly paid to be unwilling, so it falls upon us to help them-we have no choice.

I say “help” because schooling and teaching them isn’t enough anymore. The needs go beyond connecting them with the curriculum, maximizing their academic abilities, and preparing them to progress through the stages of learner-to-doer and then onto capable, young, productive citizen of the world. Student needs are beginning to fall more and more into the realm of the social, emotional and psychological. Yes, I know that when most teachers signed onto the job, they imagined behavior/classroom management would be part of an essential toolbox- and it had better be. But the tools needed by the regular education classroom teacher are starting to be those that are traditionally found in the toolboxes of the school counselor; the school psychologist; the crisis intervention officer; the family therapist…

But sometimes there’s no time to walk down the hall to borrow that tool from one of those other professionals. Sometimes that person isn’t even in your school because your school can’t/won’t pay to have one on hand. Regardless of toolboxes and tools, when a first grader is throwing a chair around the room in a rage and melts down on a regular basis requiring the room to be emptied (and halting formal instruction); when kids are sleeping in a different “home”/place, on a different couch, and moving frequently because of the economic and emotional instability in their family lives; when kids draw cartoon pictures of why their night was so bad…and you immediately need to make a “hotline” call because what that one big stick figure is doing to that other little stick figure doesn’t look right…and your pretty sure that’s a police officer stick-man taking that other one away with its stick-arms behind its back…the job of “teacher” has gone far beyond what it was meant to be.

And still, the second lieutenants of education reform line up for a spot at the billionaires’ funding trough to spout off on the greedy, recalcitrant unions and the harm they do to children. As an example, I saw a recent twitter-share regarding a Chicago school librarian eliminated, parents willing to somehow “run” the library, and union resistance to that situation. My take is not that the union resists parents, but that unions hold leaders accountable when they cop out on responsibilities to provide quality education and qualified educators. The reform debate is already heavy with wealthy, amoral pirates looking to profit by reducing schools for the poor to second hand stores.

The conversation can become more transparent than artful…which I think it’s intended to be-“spreading freedom and democracy with bombs” type stuff. Blame the firefighters, but never the arsonists. You get the picture. Sadly, people are making money doing this.

and liked a Tweet you were mentioned in:17h :
school faces budget cut. Parents volunteer to fill gap. Union forces library to close. Kids lose. Great outcome.”

So Chicago, the womb that has spat out so many non-teaching education expert-geniuses guts it’s own schools further suppressing the poor and starving it’s children (only the poor ones though, not the Emanuels, Obamas, Duncans…) and Union forces library to close” ??? Good god, folks. Without getting into the dripping sarcasm of “Great outcome”, or the fact that a temporary stint with TFA is the most classroom/school experience I ever see in people wanting to throw these tomatoes:

Where are you and have you been on ANY of the more systemic evils tearing our communities apart and really knee-capping these children and their families?

It’s sad that we have to turn to comedians more and more for a satirical, honest, and often depressing look at what is happening to this nation, the liars trying to spin it, and the rats in the hold looking to feed on the crumbs the liars spread around.

Jimmy Dore is an example of a really funny and at the same time excruciatingly truthful comedian who appears to understand the plight of being truly dedicated to people-especially children, and at the same time attacked by those looking to exploit children. Last April, as the theater called the Democratic Primaries rolled on, Dore tweeted:

while quoting/retweeting this union-tweet from Randi Weingarten:

. :

members making the final push for throughout states -earning every vote

Besides astute and accurate assessments of B.S. limited to 140 characters or less, I have watched and listened to him speak about the narrative cleverly pushed out to the public on “those greedy teachers”. I first saw Dore on The Young Turks when I fell further from the fold of mainstream cable/network news. He’s described himself as an admirer of George Carlin and I would say Carlin is watching and is proud.

If you haven’t seen him-check this out.

But getting back to tools: now we have a President-Elect Donald Trump.

I saw him coming, it made me sad then, and it makes me sad now. Not just because this entitled, arrogant asshat got elected, but because our nation which has become no more than a trademarked corporate tool and a pretend democracy made it happen. They had nothing to offer, nothing to inspire, no promise to get behind other than the continuation of proliferating Mid-East bombing and intrusion, establishment corporatism, de facto Wall Street rule, voter  hypnosis and blind obedience, subjugation of organized and politically active workers…

THAT’S the real sadness, and THAT’S what education reform should be about: TAKING OUR NATION BACK. We owe our children much more than this privatizing “choice” market that stands proudly behind segregating what it deems the good eggs that can be efficiently trained and tested from the bad eggs it has created and now wants to wash its hands of-blaming the very teachers and schools those children will be left in or sent back to when they don’t assimilate to the “choice” model.

So now, faced with the consequences of a nation so disillusioned they are willing to go with a Trump because they were offered no other option to change all of this: they are all wringing their hands like a bunch of ninnies with their knickers in a twist, when they didn’t just do it to themselves, they did it to us and to our children.

And to MY children. I’m okay with making this personal because my three daughters will be here to deal with the repercussions of what our so-called leaders have created someday after I’m gone.

So with my mind on all of this, I get this video from a Facebook connection. The gist is a cheer for the honesty of Rep. Ruben Gallego. I say honesty is great, after you committed a crime. Even better would be to not commit the crime to begin with. Below is the comment I made to the Facebook post of this video.

“These representatives are babies and liars. The ranks of the working poor have grown. We are bombing in more countries than ever and giving more money than ever to take more lives than ever-often civilian…all with no declaration of war or public examination of why. Its all in the middle east…guess why it is. For the iddy biddy babies and democracy? Pshht, right. C’mon. Banker criminals skip away from crimes freer and wealthier, corporations buy influence from the white house to the state house to school boards. Meanwhile the urban poor watch as police crack down on them, undermine schools for their children, see natives hosed and tear-gassed while oil corporations use private troops, local police and push a pipeline through their water supply…Trump is a self-promotional clown, and dangerous. But the greedy liars and babies made him happen. They ignored the people, they were swayed into worshiping a hope and change charmer who didn’t change a thing (except taking habeas corpus away so citizens could be jailed indefinitely without cause). I don’t weep for this loser, I expect more, and they need to get behind real change or this whole planet is in even more danger.”

We owe more than “choice” for our children, and we’ve seen how “hope and change” has worked. It’s time to step up and demand more.

This Year’s Holiday Homework

PARENT

INITIAL

YOUR TO DO LIST
 

 

Stay in pajamas later than you usually would. What time was it when you finally put on your REAL clothes?

_______  _______ : _______ ______

 

 

Go outside and pick something SAFE to throw snowballs at. Take 20 paces away from it, make and throw ten snowballs at it. Complete short-write #1 on the back.
 

 

Help either do the dishes, or fold laundry.

 

 

 

Straighten up your bedroom.  Make your bed and pick things up off the floor.
 

 

Play a game with a family member.  Tell what game it was and how it went on back. #2
 

 

Sing a song for someone. For bonus holiday points, sing with a family member. For SUPER bonus holiday points, sing in the canned goods aisle of a grocery store. Write about where it was, the song and how it went. #3

 

 

 

Do something outside for 30 minutes or more.  Dress for the weather and have fun.  Write about what you did. #4
 

 

Do something nice for someone else. Write about what you did and who you did it for on the back. #5
 

 

Go one whole day without video games. What did you do instead?

Write it here:

 

1) Write a sentence about what you threw snowballs at and how well you did at hitting your target. Happy-math bonus points for giving your stats as a fraction. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

2) Write about the game you played, who you played with, and who won. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3) Write about where you sang, what you sang, and how it went. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

4) What did you go outside and do for fun? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

5) What did you do for someone else? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Enjoy your break from school by connecting with others, practicing how to help out at home, and having some fun!

Might the NAACP doubt the psuedo-BS of selective choice and accountability?

At first I thought the October 15th NAACP moratorium on charter schools was just an official gesture.

You know-a symbolic response from the civil rights organization to the feverishly funded and promoted “say yes” drive to wedge private 1% interests and out-of-state investor millions into Massachusetts’s obligation to its own public. In other words: a “moratorium” (obnoxious finger air quotes) that was the strategic equivalent to the “choice” (same finger waggles with an eye-roll) described in untold amounts of advertising, promotion, self-righteous warrior for the iddy-biddy babies BS that came along with The Massachusetts Authorization of Additional Charter Schools and Charter School Expansion Initiative

Not that flaming bags of pseudo-reform BS landing on the teaching-porch was something new. The campaign to disrespect and undermine public (truly public) schools has been going on for some time. But if there’s anything to be learned about how things play out-it’s this: When you see the pointing fingers and hear about “shared sacrifice”, “rigorous standards”, “robust accountability systems”, “stealing possible”and such- you know that the real thieves are likely paying for that deflection from their own responsibility/accountability. Some of them don’t even seem all that interested in the plight of poor people and children beyond busting up their schools and are just plowing forward on a path of self-interest and self-promotion. In this way, the “failing schools” narrative serves them well, shifts the obligation to one primarily limited to good test scores, and promotes a model of privately managed selective schools for some-operating under the “public” and “choice” banners-while sometimes being neither.

But now I’ve heard that the opposition to privatization isn’t just about traditional schools and the NAACP…

… it’s also that misguided and under-informed middle class that just doesn’t understand how much more important testing children is than feeding them, housing them, preparing them with the foundations that lead to the development that then prepares them to succeed… Sorry-just a touch of snark there for the ever-changing winds of reform that swiftly turn to target the truth when it pops up to challenge them. I think most of the folks crafting the mainstream reform narrative would say they care about children in a Hallmark, summers in the Hamptons kind of way-they just seem unfamiliar in a day-to-day, closeup, hands-on, real children in real schools, actually living the struggle-to-survive kind of way. I know that many parents can describe their own need for school choice for their children because of neglected and violent neighborhoods where schools are struggling to meet the needs of a challenging student populations while being under-supported by policymakers, unable to provide a controlled setting and opportunities for those who come ready to achieve. They get it. But to what extent are the traveling consultant “choicers” willing to put their morality and word-craft to fighting the more systemic neglect getting in the way of better communities, better schools, and better outcomes? When will they step back from the worship of testing, and call for a more collaborative, whole-child/whole community approach to children and their education?

“If we know for a fact that the first three years of a child’s life are incredibly important for a child’s later learning, let’s give up the idea that education starts in kindergarten and train new parents and work with 0-3 children as early as possible. If you really want to be branded as a radical, suggest that we provide better health care and other services for children.” (Geoffrey Canada)

I think most people understand that there are more important things than tests, and that understanding is likely the source of much of that “opt out” effort that has resisted boiling down our obligation to and value of poor children to test scores.

So with this moratorium, has the NAACP made somebody’s poor children’s greatest enemies list? 

Must be, because the responses to the NAACP came swiftly and were a little over-the-top: accusations of taking parents’ rights away; slamming “the door on that chance for children of color to boost their academic achievement“; opposing “choices”, and so on. The organization had apparently joined the ranks of unions, Diane Ravitch, suburban mothers and their pretend genius children, Jesse Hagopian, Julian Vasquez, teachers with pensions…

The contrast seems clear: the NAACP and others on that hit-list battle systemic inequity continually while the mantra of the edu-marketeer/reformers  is “poverty is just an excuse”. That’s certainly a nice thing to get tattooed on your ass if you’re rich. And if you are rich the tattoo will probably be quality-inking, not like becoming tagged property bent over a jailhouse bunk with a paper clip and ink made from urine mixed with cigarette ash. Those poverty-mottoes sure are great when’re not poor, are well-connected or well-married, and if you are ignoring, maintaining or even creating poverty. Yes, of course you cannot use poverty as an excuse not to teach and try to reach students, and real teachers in all sorts of schools know that. They also know you can’t use emotional outburst, inattentiveness, non-participation, chronic hunger and fatigue, violence, broken or unstable homes, non-supportive parents..as excuses. They know because their schools have open doors and classrooms for all children, and teach them all in a group together.

If reformers believe that should change for traditional schools-they should say so.

For children who grew up poor and became successful-they did not settle for poverty as an excuse either. Everybody gets it-but this type of “poverty is not an excuse” gas-lighting while creating filtered-enrollment schooling choice-for-some mostly serves to blame/shame front line educators and keep non-teachers on their paid-speech tours. It also avoids addressing the greater issues.

Why do those claiming to care so much about children deny the negative impacts of such a system while blaming those actually serving children?

Maybe it’s because systemic evil is either too great and scary an enemy for them to “strap up” for, or maybe systemic evil is exactly where their bread-n-butter is found. Don’t bite the hand…right?  But before I became too irritated at the whole reform apparatus response to the NAACP, I had to gather the facts. I needed to find out what the NAACP moratorium had to say, because it must be bad.  So a few weeks ago I went to find the actual words the NAACP used, found the conditions they wanted for charter schools, and wrote up a quick post. I also put those conditions below and am revisiting them because I have yet to see a real, intelligent explanation for the resistance.  Yes, there has been an attempt that amounts to this (my paraphrasing):

Well, we just don’t know if any of that bad stuff in charters is happening, really, because we lack enough real proof- data…and you know data isn’t something we really profess much interest in usually. It’s a hard thing to collect- other than test scores, so asking for rules that make the playing field level and honest would just steal possible from poor children; it just makes innovative schooling impossible when you put transparency, conditions and expectations on it-just ask Eva Moskowitz. Those are things for traditional schools, their teachers and the kids we won’t take from them. So more or less the NAACP has intentionally made it impossible for great schools to serve poor children (My paraphrasing of pro-choice response to the NAACP)

In separate conventions, the N.A.A.C.P. and the Movement for Black Lives, (assembled by Black Lives Matter) passed resolutions declaring that charter schools have made segregation worse-especially in the way they select and discipline students. Remember that the NAACP, as described here , is the nation’s oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization.  Yet a Washington Post article describing the moratorium announcement said that one of the responses included a letter from African Americans involved in education that accused the NAACP of making a false anti-charter argument and said that a “blanket moratorium on charter schools would limit black students’ access to some of the best schools in America and deny black parents the opportunity to make decisions about what’s best for their children.

I have to wonder, though, if “Question 2” was about additional charters and charter expansions, how do we know ahead of time that they are some of the best schools in America? If we don’t have some common sense requirements of them-how can we know? Are we really going to go just by test scores after allowing charters to manufacture their enrollments specifically for that purpose?

But that’s just food for thought. Here is what the NAACP wants:

(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools

Okay…fair to compare-right? As a parent, how do I know what to choose if some schools are allowed to hide behind a veil of secrecy, and especially if the owner/operators of those schools are heaped with undeserved praise and promotion? How can I trust school leaders that only want blind trust? Some of the reform blow-back I’ve seen on this concern is (My paraphrasing again):

Maybe parents don’t want to be bothered by all those details, they just want “results”. Maybe not having a Board of Education and administration that feels it needs to answer to them is a moot point once they’ve signed the contract and agreed to the charter schools conditions. If they become unhappy, if they are called daily because their child doesn’t sit up straight, or their child gets their paper ripped and spends too much time in the calm down chair…well maybe that school simply isn’t the right fit for their child. (My paraphrasing of the “parents definitely deserve choice but may want no say” point of view)

(2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system

Charter schools have been shown to impact traditional schools negatively, by diverting resources, and participating actively in the “what other choice do we have” choice-game. When traditional public schools are over-mandated and under-funded, and/or educating a challenging student population-of course involved and supportive parents who place a high value on education seek escape to a more stable cohort and controlled environment. What choice do they feel they have?

 (3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate

Schools exist to serve the community by schooling the child that will grow to someday serve the community he/she serves. They shouldn’t prevent access or refuse to serve students that don’t fit an efficiency model that serves the school’s reputation first and then children-if it works for the school. To pretend you don’t know this happens is a little silly. To cast out the false equivalence that traditional schools “push out” students too rings of strategy and PR.

 
(4) Charter schools cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.

We should be empowering the public school system to provide the educational options all students deserve. Why is it, instead, that these options are just for parents who win lotteries; who are involved enough to choose; who can themselves and who have kids who can conform to sometimes rigid guidelines?

Maybe parent voice does not drive the creation and promotion of this product being called choice.

It was a market opportunity from the beginning, planned for and driven by wealthy interests. From Bill Gates, to Rupert Murdoch (“When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the US alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed”), to stars bringing in school branding efforts from rappers and music moguls… That an effort by the NAACP, Movement for Black Lives, and others close to education to level opportunity and resources for all children in black and brown communities has been described as creating division should tell you where that “choice” loyalty lies: with a business model, it’s investors, and a select consumer group.

The NAACP critics are clearly not looking for a better conversation or an honest debate.

The NAACP kinda threw a wrench into the popular,wealthy white reformers’ PR shtick. Up to then, it was standard fare to see nay-sayers of privately managed “choice” schools, critics of much touted non-educator edu-reform celebrities, and resistors of test-centrism to all be painted as elitist, union-shill enemies of poor children and deniers of civil rights. And now here’s the oldest civil rights organization in the country also expressing concerns.

So I have to wonder what is the real deal with resistance to transparency and accountability. To demand so much from traditional schools, and then to come out so fast and hard to cry “foul” when it’s asked of charters-before green-lighting their creation/expansion…it just makes me wonder what it’s all about.

I wrote this a little while ago as an example of something a well-known charter school leader could say to really just lay it out there and stop the pretending.

“I am really nothing special, and certainly no teacher. My school is not one that dares take on the more serious behaviors and challenges that traditional schools and experienced professionals take on every day, and I know that. What I do have is access to a market and some promotional mechanisms that will provide some of the more capable and willing parents and students an escape hatch to greater achievement and opportunity than they might have otherwise realized in schools and classrooms failed by our economy, society, and policymakers. True, we don’t want them all. True, we can’t really just come in and work the same type of magic in a regular classroom, because not all students are so easily trained to comply. But by me simplifying the job for us, we can help some kids get great test scores. Not all, I know, so I promise not to keep comparing my school’s results with traditional schools and I ask the press to cooperate in helping keep me humble. What my schools choose to do and how we do it is far different than what other schools are obligated to do. I just want to help those with potential that could otherwise risk getting lost. Thank you.” (A fictional speech that could potentially be given by a non-fiction charter leader character)

Would this kind of honesty be wrong, or is it only wrong business-wise? How would the NAACP respond if the charter and choice promoters were this honest? Is this easier/better than the NAACP’s conditions-or is unfettered access to just certain children and no oversight other than supply-and-demand the reformers’ wish?

I think I can understand the NAACP’s desire to have some common sense equity and understanding injected into the opportunity charter schools could and should provide.

NAACP’s Moratorium

Here is the part of the NAACP statement regarding what conditions they hope can be met in order to move past the moratorium on charter school expansion. The entire piece regarding the moratorium (from mid-October) can be found by clicking on this text:

We are calling for a moratorium on the expansion of the charter schools at least until such time as:
(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools
(2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system
(3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and
(4) Charter schools cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.

I had been wondering for some time why reformer pundits and edu-propaganda outlets had slung so much mud at the NAACP, suggested that they were trying to steal choice from poor parents, or preventing them from having choice to begin with…Seems that some may see conditions as only being for underfunded and disrespected traditional public schools (and not the innovative and privately managed choice schools), or maybe it was a touch of shame resulting from having their.

Buyer beware: This is what “choice” can mean.

I have been made aware of another “choice” story. I understand they are not all the same, but c’mon. Maybe this is why thinking people understand we need to be loyal to people and address the needs of society, not create a market that commands loyalty to it over them. Instead of “choice”, maybe we need other words to describe schools like this. “Privately managed semi-selective option” schools?

Anyways, I came across this story from a parent whose child struggles with the same condition my youngest has (P.A.N.D.A.S.). I wrote about it in January in a letter put on educationpost after a call for uplifting, positive stories. It really is sudden, alarming, and so far my wife and I appear to have been fortunate. Click on the link to go to the archived original, or just read the story below (more about the teacher, but describes my daughter).

 

A colleague recently suffered a series of tragedies, starting with the loss of a son who was grown—but still a young man. Despite this, she kept her composure, her warmth, and her professionalism in front of the children she teaches.

One girl, in particular, had come down with a rather serious condition resulting from a strep infection that had not been effectively treated. The student, formerly bright, capable, active, and always well-behaved, had disappeared and been replaced by a withdrawn, nervous, malnourished ghost…but was slowly coming back.

This colleague found ways to be there for her class and involve and encourage this young girl on the heels of and in the middle of the series of her own personal tragedies (that would have had other teachers taking as many days/weeks off as their contract would allow). I watched and listened as she prepared to send kids off for the holiday break with a few small gifts and the advice to hug, love and thank their parents because their parents love them very much.

How she didn’t lose it—I don’t know. But I do know that her whole class, especially that little girl who is sitting three feet away from me right now and doing well, is blessed by the presence of this teacher in her school.

Now this other parent, with a story of her own that I just read this morning, describes a “choice” school she got her children into-that is now sending her child back to the “home school” because medical treatment is needed that would temporarily impact attendance-maybe for a month or so. “Forced out” and transferred. Is this the kind of thing that “choicers” promote and defend? Again, I like parents having choices-but I want those choices to be honest, held to the same expectations and standards, and to not boast and/or be promoted for results attained through manufactured enrollment. Prove yourself with the same populations, by overcoming the same struggles, and by providing the security and stability of a group of adults that serve children-not numbers.

Here is what I wrote to this parent:

Tell me about “forced out”. How does a conversation like that happen in a school that wants a great reputation, but is unwilling to welcome a sick child and work with parents to make good things happen? I only ask because I am an elem teacher of 15+ years, have a 10 yr old w/PANDAS (thankfully in the school I teach in), and have been exposed to the rhetoric of failing public schools and how much greater “choice” schools are [or how every parent deserves choice, is better served by choice…].My suspicion is that they are sometimes great because they do the selecting and are unwilling to be a welcoming “home” school for kids if that relationship requires any effort on their part. I know this sucks, I can’t imagine a school sending a kid away, and I wonder if you are free to respond to them

“No, this is my child and your student. I will meet my responsibility and you will meet yours-that is serve the children, not your bottom line. On the other hand, I’m sure the local radio station/ news-paper would like to help me share out my dilemma while I try to figure out what to do.”

Good luck with this and with treatment.

Children who are ill, children that require understanding and low-level accommodation…if any school “forces out” a child like that…that is definitely not a “choice” school.