Tagged: charter renewal

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CCSA’s last-minute effort to close Leadership High School

favicon Last Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Education unanimously voted to renew Leadership High School’s charter for the next five years.

The 7-0 vote was unprecedented and demonstrated the Board’s confidence in the school’s track record. The renewal championed the democratic process. After all, charter schools are public schools and are accountable by law to their districts.

Don’t say this, though, to the California Charter Schools Association, which publicly called for the closure of Leadership High School in December.

Just in case the SFUSD Board did not receive its first memo, the CCSA made sure last Tuesday — on the day of the vote — to send Superintendent Carlos Garcia and the Board a seven-page letter advocating the school’s closure.

Here is the introduction to the last-minute letter:

We understand that the Board of Education of the San Francisco Unified School District will be considering the renewal of the Leadership High charter petition (Charter) today. We urge you to consider data related to the Charter’s poor academic performance, as explained more fully below, and deny the Charter renewal.

CCSA senior vice presidents Gary Borden and Myrna Castrejon go on to provide tables and charts explaining their rationale. At one point, they ask the Board to consider the organization’s own metrics of performance rather than relying on state law:

We recommend that the district take into account CCSA’s data analysis because current statutory renewal eligibility requirements do not provide an adequate evaluation of a charter school’s academic performance.

At the end of the letter, however, Borden and Castrejon reverse themselves and call on the superintendent and commissioners to act in order to preserve state law:

Ultimately, the intent of the Charter Schools Act cannot be fulfilled if charter schools do not improve pupil learning and increase learning opportunities for all pupils.

This extraordinary last-minute letter did nothing to sway the commissioners. In fact, the CCSA’s strategy backfired. President Norman Yee suggested that CCSA staff members should consider visiting the school themselves. Even more striking, Commissioner Jill Wynns, who does not support charter schools on principle, also voted yes to the renewal. In fact, Wynns said she would normally be inclined not to vote for renewal but did not appreciate CCSA’s political attack.

I am proud of the SFUSD Board of Education for doing its job — for visiting Leadership High School, considering the experiences of students and parents, and doing the necessary research to make an informed decision.

It is true that not all charter schools are performing well, and some deserve to close. Nevertheless, the CCSA’s approach is needlessly aggressive and reckless. Instead of issuing public calls for closure and sending last-minute letters to encourage district boards of education to close down schools, the CCSA should honor current law and the accountability process that currently exists. favicon

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Why Leadership High School’s renewal is a big deal

favicon The San Francisco Board of Education voted last Tuesday to renew Leadership High School’s charter through 2017.

Here are three reasons why it was a big deal.

1. The vote was unanimous. All seven commissioners warmly praised the school. Even Commissioner Jill Wynns, who usually opposes charter schools, voted for the measure.

2. The vote was in support of students of color and students who will be the first in their families to graduate from college. The Board recognized the school’s track record in preparing students for higher education. More than 80 percent of LHS students are African American or Latino, and more than 80 percent will be the first in their families to graduate from college. More than 90 percent of students go to college.

3. The vote championed the local democratic process. Instead of paying attention to the California Charter School Association’s misguided public call for the school’s closure, the commissioners did their own research and listened carefully to their constituents. Five out of seven Board members visited the school. It was clear that all of them read parent and student letters. In other words, the Board did not succumb to nasty politics and instead weighed the school’s charter proposal on its merits.

I am proud to teach in San Francisco. The Board did the right thing on Tuesday. With its unanimous vote, it sent a strong message that educating youth is more than just producing high test scores. It’s also about building character and preparing students to transform themselves and their communities. favicon

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Leadership High School’s charter is renewed

Mike, Monae. Photo by Jessica Gammell.

favicon Leadership High School’s charter was renewed tonight for the next five years by the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education.

The vote for renewal was a unanimous 7-0.

The school met with controversy in December when a state association called for the school’s closure.

School board commissioners praised the school for its commitment to providing a rigorous academic experience for all students, most of whom will be the first in their families to attend college.

Several students, parents, and teachers spoke out in favor of charter renewal and wrote letters of support. Special thanks go to Executive Director Elizabeth Rood, who spearheaded the campaign for charter renewal.

For more information, check out this press release and this article from The San Francisco Examiner. In addition, check out this blog post from The San Francisco Chroniclefavicon

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Leadership High School: “The first day, my life changed.”

favicon As Leadership High School goes through its charter renewal process, it is important for the community to get a full sense of the school’s strengths and weaknesses.

In June, Sam Mende-Wong did a piece for Full Circle, a program on Berkeley’s KPFA radio station (94.1 FM). This nine-minute broadcast offers an excellent introduction to Leadership High School and provides specifics about its differences from a traditional public school.

Please listen — and feel free to leave comments.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Thank you, Mr. Mende-Wong, for your work. Also, thank you to teachers Jacob Aringo and Mark Segado and students Edwin Carreto and Nina Garde for your comments. favicon

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Leadership High School: The power of headlines to mislead

favicon A nervous student called me today. “Mr. Isero, our school is going to close,” she said.

“No, it’s not,” I replied.

“But I read it in the newspaper,” she said.

She was right. She had read an article on SF Gate with the headline, “S.F. Leadership High on state’s list of 10 for closure.”

And she had read “Poor test scores may shut Leadership High in San Francisco” in The Examiner.

Unfortunately, because of poorly written headlines, my student — and thousands more — received a misleading representation of the truth.

In fact, the school is not on the state’s list for closure, as the Chronicle suggested. That’s just false. And while it’s true that test scores are influential in our current climate, there’s no evidence to suggest that the school’s charter renewal is in jeopardy.

The truth is: (1) A charter school association recommended our school’s closure because of low test scores, (2) That organization has no authority over the school’s existence, (3) The school applies for charter renewal with the district’s Board of Education this Spring.

If you read the entirety of the articles, both writers — Jill Tucker and Amy Crawford — do an adequate job reporting the story. After all, when you’re pressured with a deadline and limited space, it’s hard to get deep into nuances.

But most people are influenced mainly by an article’s headline. That’s what we read first. That’s what grabs our attention.

Unfortunately, it’s standard practice in journalism that an article’s headline writer is different from an article’s writer.

A headline writer must quickly scan an article for its contents and write a headline that fits the amount of space in the newspaper or on a website.

In both the Chronicle and the Examiner’s stories, the headlines are misleading — and have caused a great deal of anxiety. If I distrusted the news media (which I don’t — I have a deep respect for journalism), I would say the headline writer knew exactly what he or she was doing in order to sell papers and cause controversy.

More likely, this was just an oversight. As our school deals with this media barrage, however, I’m reminded by what I tell my students: Every word matters. favicon

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Leadership High School is not slated to close

favicon Even though my students read seven books, wrote 14 essays, and averaged 10 hours of homework a week this semester (in my class alone), I work at a failing school.

So says the California Charter Schools Association.

On Thursday, the organization — which has no authority over our school — recommended 10 schools for closure because of low test scores. My school, Leadership High School, was on the list. This press release prompted several misleading news reports and tons of anxiety in our school community.

The truth is, the CCSA does not choose whether our school gets its charter renewed. That authority goes to our district’s Board of Education.

The truth also is, our test scores are, indeed, low — if you look just at the overall score. But if you consider our performance with African American and Latino students, who make up 82 percent of our population, our results surpass those of other schools in San Francisco. Please read our school’s response.

In our current political climate, it’s easy to overgeneralize, and it’s easy to point fingers. That’s what’s happening here. With our economy down, money is tight, and that means emotions are strong. Charter schools run the gamut and are not widely understood as public schools. Because everyone pays taxes and has attended school, everyone has an opinion. People’s full selves — positive and negative, compassionate and mean-spirited, magnanimous and racist — come out when talking about public schools.

I’m proud to work at Leadership High School. That’s why I’ve been here 12 years. We do important work. I look forward to our charter renewal process in February with the Board of Education. I am hopeful that its seven members will follow the process and look closely at all the facts, rather than succumb to simplistic rhetoric. favicon