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Letter to the Governor: Base Education on Best Practices, Not Best Guesses

The Rochester PTA Council Legislative Committee challenges Gov. Rick Snyder's plan for education reform.

Dear Governor Snyder, 

The following statement appears next to your photo on the official state of Michigan website: 

“Michigan must become a place where our children can live, work, play and prosper.  State government can enable and encourage, but communities themselves must lead the way.”  - Governor Rick Snyder,  www.michigan.gov 

As members of the Rochester PTA Council Legislative Committee, we are having a hard time reconciling that statement with your current legislative agenda of establishing a statewide, privatized school system, which would not let the “communities themselves lead the way.”

A statewide school system that would effectively end locally controlled community schools, whose board members are elected by the communities they serve.  A statewide school system that has no quality standards and little indicators of success, and that would put thousands of children’s educations and futures at risk.  In other words, a school “reform” that, philosophically, is the polar opposite of your statement as it appears on the michigan.gov site. 

The Rochester PTA Council Legislative Committee supports efforts to improve our public schools.  However, we only support reform measures with a proven track record of success. And we believe in the sovereignty of our locally appointed school boards to make decisions regarding our school district property, built and maintained by our local tax dollars.  

So, Governor Snyder, we appeal to you to make Michigan a place where children receive an education that is based on best practices, not best guesses.  And make it a place where the community schools are part of the community not part of a private corporation or for that matter, part of an experiment.  In other words, we expect your actions to match your words. 

Sincerely,

The Rochester PTA Council Legislative Committee 

The Rochester PTA Council Legislative Committee meets monthly to discuss legislation pertaining to schools and their communities.  This group is comprised of parents representing each school within the district.  The Rochester Community Schools has an enrollment of approximately 15,000 students in a total of 23 schools.

Brian Kirksey January 16, 2013 at 09:38 PM
What a great letter!
Joshua Raymond January 16, 2013 at 09:49 PM
Is the Rochester PTA Legislative Committee willing to support best practices that are contrary to their other goals or only ones that align? From http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130115/SCHOOLS/301150353/Edge-given-charter-students "A report released Monday by an independent analyst of charter schools shows charter school students in Michigan and Detroit are out-learning their public school counterparts. The study, done by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes, found the typical Michigan charter school student school gained more learning in a year than a district school peer — an advantage of about an additional two months of reading and math learning." ---------- "The Michigan analysis found at the school level, on average, 35 percent of the charter schools have significantly more positive learning gains than their district school counterparts in reading, while two percent of charter schools have significantly lower learning gains. In math, 42 percent of the charter schools studied outperformed their district school peers while only six percent performed worse." --------- The study also showed that charters run by for-profit Education Management Organizations did better than those run by non-profit Charter Management Organizations. -------- Since charter schools are now "reform measures with a proven track record of success", can they now expect the support of the RCS PTA Legislative Committee?
Cheryl Junker January 16, 2013 at 10:55 PM
Great letter! For those interested in attending meetings, are they open to the public? I am hoping that more parents become aware and educated as to what is happening in our State and across the country. The urgency to get involved could not be greater! Thank you for keeping us informed!
diane glinski January 16, 2013 at 11:18 PM
Joshua- As I've mentioned before, CREDO has made it clear that it is not a disinterested research institution. Rather, it has a policy agenda of "school choice" expansion. Many (including charter school advocates) have called its methodologies into question. As you have previously pointed out, CREDO has done some studies that show charter schools to be underperforming in comparison to public schools, as have several other reputable studies. It might be a bit premature to call one CREDO study "proof" that charter schools are the best way to go for Michigan.
Anonymous January 16, 2013 at 11:59 PM
The rest of the story... http://www.freep.com/article/20130114/NEWS/130114025/Average-charter-school-student-shows-more-growth-than-others-in-their-districts-says-study-announced-today "And today’s report -- which was focused on growth -- also shows a majority of charters in the state are low-achieving. In math, for instance, 80% of the 208 schools that had enough test score data are identified as low achieving in the report. Researchers said of particular concern are 29 schools that are seeing low growth and low achievement. In reading, 84% of the 212 charters with available data were identified as low-achieving; about 25% of the schools are also showing low growth."
Marianne Maurer January 17, 2013 at 12:40 AM
Excellent letter! Thank you PTA for the efforts you put forth for our children and our community.
Joshua Raymond January 17, 2013 at 01:46 AM
Diane, yes, the previous CREDO report, which did not look at Michigan's charter schools, did list states where charters were performing poorly and states where charters were performing well. If had been to advance a policy of school choice expansion, it could have been much more flattering. The just-released CREDO report is specifically on Michigan. It praised Michigan as having some of the best charter schools. I doubt CREDO at Stanford University in California has an agenda to make Michigan look much better than other states. Even the MEA-sponsored study you cited that had data from six years ago showed charter schools improving and in 2007 almost equal to public schools. Six years have now passed for charter schools to continue improving and getting kinks out. This is the path that many organizations take, struggling at the beginning and eventually becoming very good. I'm not saying that charter schools are the "best way" to go for Michigan, but they certainly appear to be a way to go for Michigan and not something to be stifled. Let parents decide. As I've said numerous times before, the best response from public schools would be to determine why so many families are choosing charter schools and offer that in the public schools. If the public schools cannot offer something that a parent believes to be important for their children's education, public schools should not stand in the way of parents taking that opportunity and choosing a charter school.
Joshua Raymond January 17, 2013 at 02:02 AM
Anonymous, it shouldn't be a surprise that 80% of charters are low-achieving. Almost all are in low-achieving, low-growth districts. A student that comes in two years behind grade level but makes one and a half year's growth the next year is still low-achieving, even with the high growth. 25% being low-growth schools may sound bad, but 50% of all public schools, traditional and charter, are low-growth schools, so only 25% being low growth is pretty darn good.
Richard Happening January 17, 2013 at 03:28 AM
PTA'ers in RCS seem to think in lock-step from what I have seen. They definitely have an agenda that is pro-union and pro status quo. Our schools are broken. We have some great teachers and some who are abysmal. I have children in RCS and I went to RCS. We need (not just in RCS) a way to attract and keep good teachers. The current system is a joke. Bad teachers stick around and people looking for a rewarding career are discouraged from entering the profession. It's always telling when people get militant about something- really insecure. Usually, it means that they are worried about losing something that they don't deserve.
Rich Kingston January 17, 2013 at 03:10 PM
Competition sure scares the hell out of people! The big three, years ago got the big scare and finally faced up to it! We had junk forced on us until we started looking else where. Now the schools are turning out so so products based on whatever report you read or just plain common sense and so an alternative scares them. Time to take a look inside like the auto boys did. That young person Richard refers to is going to ask "why should I come join you?"
Cheryl Junker January 17, 2013 at 06:00 PM
'Militant?', I am not sure this letter reflects a militant demeanor. That is a bit of a stretch! To be honest, most PTA'ers in RCS are dedicated moms who are on the front lines in our schools. They are the ones doing the work of the lost parapros, the room moms, the engaged parents who diligently work to ensure their children are getting the best education possible. They ARE the 'Tiger Moms' if you will. They will go to the matt for you if you are on the side of their kids and have genuine interest in education. That 'genuine interest' needs to be proven, though. So you may want to rethink your approach. These very moms are YOUR 'target market'. Step lightly or your may end up turning away potential customers before your school is even up and running. Remember, the 'Tiger Moms' are not partial to anyone but THEIR kids! (This says nothing about the Teachers who YOU will also have to work hard to keep. Remember, choice goes both ways and without mutual respect, an organization can flounder.....even an educational one.) And for the record, I am not a PTA'er! I have just volunteered enough in the schools for the last 6 years to see the detrimental results of lost moral.

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