Author Topic: 'The Lottery' documentary shows education is a sure bet  (Read 3925 times)

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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'The Lottery' documentary shows education is a sure bet
« on: April 29, 2010, 07:48:39 am »
'The Lottery' documentary shows education is a sure bet
Errol Louis

Thursday, April 29th 2010, 4:00 AM

An already heated national debate over charter schools gets a few degrees hotter tonight with the premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival of "The Lottery," a powerful documentary about the Harlem Success Academy charters launched by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz.

The film is designed to knock ambivalent people off the fence when it comes to the benefits of charter schools, and it does.

In the same way that "An Inconvenient Truth" mobilized a vast constituency to take action on climate change, "The Lottery" will create and energize charter supporters by the thousands. It conveys the desperation and urgency of urban public education better than the anti-charter forces can defend a status quo that is shockingly unfair and wholly unacceptable.

What people in well-off communities take for granted - the simple process of enrolling a child in kindergarten - takes on huge stakes in the film, which follows four Harlem families as they hope and pray (sometimes literally) for one of the scarce kindergarten slots in one of Moskowitz's schools, allocated by lottery.

Some charters - privately managed public schools with the power to alter their hours, work rules, budgets and curriculum - are scoring significantly better on standardized tests than the regular public schools around them.

Beyond scores, there's the look and feel of learning. You know it when you see it.

I have spent most of my life in one school or another. As a student, I've attended Catholic school in Harlem, public school in Westchester and earned degrees from Harvard, Yale and Brooklyn Law. As a college professor, I've spent at least one semester a year for the past decade teaching graduate and/or undergraduate students at Pace, Pratt, NYU, Long Island University and Hunter College.

I've visited Moskowitz's schools, sat in on classes and talked with her students. Anybody familiar with high-performing learning environments can tell within a few minutes that she's on to something that other educators should study and try to copy.

That's easier said than done. In Harlem and other communities, outstanding performance by charters has provoked envy, resentment and an organized backlash by teachers unions.

The divisions are understandable. It's hard not to get upset about the fact that public education in Harlem and other inner-city neighborhoods operates as a brutal social sorting mechanism.

A lucky few get steered to success, fulfillment and opportunity (only 10% of poor Americans ever make it to college). The unlucky ones are steered into a life marred by ignorance, inadequate skills, dead-end jobs, prison and worse.

"The Lottery" nails the cost of bad schooling perfectly. It's one thing to know in the abstract what it means to get a lousy education - but quite another to see a second-generation MTA bus driver wonder, wistfully, what he might have become with better courses and encouragement.

Opponents of charter schools tend to seize on the principled skeptics like Diane Ravitch, the education historian whose brilliant new book, "The Death and Life of the Great American School System," recently became a best seller.

Examining national charter school data, Ravitch concludes that all the fuss over standouts like Harlem Success may be misguided.

"There are some excellent charter schools, but there are just as many terrible charter schools," Ravitch told me. "When you compare charter schools to regular public schools, there is no difference in performance - no difference for black kids, Hispanic kids, poor kids or for urban areas. If you create a whole sector that pulls off public money to create privately managed schools and [it] doesn't get better results, all you're doing is enfeebling the public education system."

She's mostly right.

The fact that charters, on average, don't significantly outperform other public schools doesn't invalidate the individual achievement of particular schools like Harlem Success. They are pointing the way to a future where good schooling will be more than just a matter of chance.

elouis@nydailynews.com

 


Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: 'The Lottery' documentary shows education is a sure bet
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2010, 08:13:19 am »
"There are some excellent charter schools, but there are just as many terrible charter schools," Ravitch told me. "When you compare charter schools to regular public schools, there is no difference in performance - no difference for black kids, Hispanic kids, poor kids or for urban areas. If you create a whole sector that pulls off public money to create privately managed schools and [it] doesn't get better results, all you're doing is enfeebling the public education system."

She's mostly right.


If you have a variety of charter schools experimenting with alternative approaches, wouldn't you expect some to be successful and others not? It seems to me the lesson to draw from this is not to drop all charter schools but to cull out the poorly performing ones. And to integrate the lessons from the successes (and failures) back into the main stream wherever possible.

Here's the website for the film. Looks like it's in limited release on May 7 and available on DVD on May 30.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2010, 08:16:35 am by Curtis Metcalf »
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Offline jefferson L.O.B. sergeant

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Re: 'The Lottery' documentary shows education is a sure bet
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2010, 04:25:44 pm »
I love how corporate America has sought to ravage education and turn it into a commodity like everything else.

I am overjoyed that people here in NYC are finally fighting back and not allowing these corporate scumbags to simply takeover with no resistance. Charter Schools do not outperform Public Schools but becuase of the corporate connection, the media outlets for Greendot, Walmart, and Gates promote the lie to no end.

The notion that people in America have to gamble for the lives of their children is a despicable spectacle and should be characterized as such. Instead, because of the aforementioned media bias; it is somehow turned into a positive.

What all those Harlem parents should be asking themselves is why can't the public schools in their community offer the same services as the charter schools?

Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: 'The Lottery' documentary shows education is a sure bet
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2010, 07:39:05 pm »
What all those Harlem parents should be asking themselves is why can't the public schools in their community offer the same services as the charter schools?

That's a good question. Why is that?
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Offline jefferson L.O.B. sergeant

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Re: 'The Lottery' documentary shows education is a sure bet
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2010, 05:33:59 pm »
What all those Harlem parents should be asking themselves is why can't the public schools in their community offer the same services as the charter schools?

That's a good question. Why is that?

The answer is that as public schools and not corporate entities they must serve the entire population of the community.

That means ELA students, students with developmental disabilities, violent students etc. These populations historically tend to underachieve on standardized test. When you create a system that ultimately funds on the basis of those tests, you've created a recipe for disaster.

The environment that exists in most charter schools: 2 teachers per classroom, class size of 21-25, required parental involvement, SCREENING etc. all of these things are conducive to bringing about the best results. If one were to replicate the aforementioned characteristics of the charter schools in public schools, the result would be remarkably positive.

Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: 'The Lottery' documentary shows education is a sure bet
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2010, 08:00:42 am »
What all those Harlem parents should be asking themselves is why can't the public schools in their community offer the same services as the charter schools?

That's a good question. Why is that?

The answer is that as public schools and not corporate entities they must serve the entire population of the community.

That means ELA students, students with developmental disabilities, violent students etc. These populations historically tend to underachieve on standardized test. When you create a system that ultimately funds on the basis of those tests, you've created a recipe for disaster.
No offense but that sounds like just so many excuses. Parents don't have time to wait for regular public schools to get their sh*t together.

When I think of the charter schools in the Washington, DC area, they do not receive any more funding per student than the regular public schools; in fact, they often receive less. Admission is by lottery. Some are associated with regional or national programs, e.g. KIPP, some are started by individual educators. Some are successful, some not.

I agree that assessments should be much broader than just standardized test results. We should measure academic progress. If students start behind, what is important is that they make strides toward catching up. I think teachers should be evaluated based on the progress their students make, i.e. the difference between where they start the year and end the year. It's hard to argue that good teaching is going on in the absence of learning.

The environment that exists in most charter schools: 2 teachers per classroom, class size of 21-25, required parental involvement, SCREENING etc. all of these things are conducive to bringing about the best results. If one were to replicate the aforementioned characteristics of the charter schools in public schools, the result would be remarkably positive.
So what's stopping them? I agree that what works in charter schools should be introduced into mainstream schools as best practices. It seems to me, however, that mainstream schools have been resistant to changes of almost any kind and that is one of problems faced by our education system.

In short, framing the issue as charter schools vs. mainstream schools is a false opposition. Charter schools are part of the public school system and can serve a vital role. They should be evaluated in that context in my view.
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Offline jefferson L.O.B. sergeant

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Re: 'The Lottery' documentary shows education is a sure bet
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2010, 09:33:12 pm »
What all those Harlem parents should be asking themselves is why can't the public schools in their community offer the same services as the charter schools?

That's a good question. Why is that?

The answer is that as public schools and not corporate entities they must serve the entire population of the community.

That means ELA students, students with developmental disabilities, violent students etc. These populations historically tend to underachieve on standardized test. When you create a system that ultimately funds on the basis of those tests, you've created a recipe for disaster.
No offense but that sounds like just so many excuses. Parents don't have time to wait for regular public schools to get their sh*t together.

When I think of the charter schools in the Washington, DC area, they do not receive any more funding per student than the regular public schools; in fact, they often receive less. Admission is by lottery. Some are associated with regional or national programs, e.g. KIPP, some are started by individual educators. Some are successful, some not.

I agree that assessments should be much broader than just standardized test results. We should measure academic progress. If students start behind, what is important is that they make strides toward catching up. I think teachers should be evaluated based on the progress their students make, i.e. the difference between where they start the year and end the year. It's hard to argue that good teaching is going on in the absence of learning.

The environment that exists in most charter schools: 2 teachers per classroom, class size of 21-25, required parental involvement, SCREENING etc. all of these things are conducive to bringing about the best results. If one were to replicate the aforementioned characteristics of the charter schools in public schools, the result would be remarkably positive.
So what's stopping them? I agree that what works in charter schools should be introduced into mainstream schools as best practices. It seems to me, however, that mainstream schools have been resistant to changes of almost any kind and that is one of problems faced by our education system.

In short, framing the issue as charter schools vs. mainstream schools is a false opposition. Charter schools are part of the public school system and can serve a vital role. They should be evaluated in that context in my view.

Respectfully, charter schools vs mainstream schools is not a false characterization.  The battle taking place here in NYC is a clear indication of that.

You said that public schools are making excuses instead of replicating the Charter school environment. Nothing can be further from the truth. Here in NYC, the greatest opposition to replicating the charter environment is Emperor Bloomberg.

With Mayoral control of education, you have an advocate for charter schools in the mayor who actively pushes for policies that strip public schools in favor of charters. A perfect example is the closing of special district schools that cater to special needs students. There is no doubt in my mind that these vacant schools will now be used to open up charter schools.

The despicable result of the aforementioned closings is that the special needs population will undoubtedly stretch the resources of the surrounding schools to the limit. When those schools most likely underperform, the mayor and other charter advocates will seize on that as another opportunity to close those schools and open charters.

I see a rigged system here in NYC and it is not in favor of public education.

Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: 'The Lottery' documentary shows education is a sure bet
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2010, 05:20:22 am »
JS,
I respectfully defer to your greater knowledge of the particular situation in NYC. I was speaking of charter schools in general. If, in fact, charters are being positioned to replace public schools, that is essentially a privatization and not a use of charters that I would be inclined to defend. I am arguing for a role for charters in improving public schools overall, not a takeover. In my model, charters would be only a small percentage of the public school system. I am for a robust and effective public school system.

 
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Offline Vic Vega

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Re: 'The Lottery' documentary shows education is a sure bet
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2010, 07:19:04 am »
There are several issues here.

I am told that the NYC test is less rigorous than the national standard so that there is a “lowering of the bar” citywide. So the “Impressive Results” aren’t all that impressive.

The other issue is that the Charter School movement is being used to break the New York City Teachers Union.

I myself am a proud union member as my father was before me.

That said, #$%^ the Teachers Union. I have zero empathy for them.

Too many of its constituents think that they have a right to that job. I deal with employer-employee disputes at my job and some of them have had to do with the Dept of Education. So I know what goes on at some of these schools. And as far as I’m concerned, if you are more concerned with protecting your turf than teaching kids yours ass needs to go. If you are busy screaming for your Union Rep every time your principal looks at you sideways your ass needs to go. You pretty much would have to be caught dealing drugs in the school hallway to get fired as a member of the Teachers Union. 

I have quota and professional standards to maintain and if I don’t-it’s my @$$. Why should Teachers be any different?

Tossing the #$%^-ups out would go a LONG WAY to improving the Public School situation.

Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: 'The Lottery' documentary shows education is a sure bet
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2010, 07:26:30 am »
Well, that's what I was obliquely referring to when I spoke of schools being resistant to change. Good job breaking it down, Vic.

I am a fan of pay for performance. Obviously, performance needs to be measured in a meaningful way but that ought to be the issue under discussion, not just a blanket rejection of the concept. The job for life notion needs to go.
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Offline jefferson L.O.B. sergeant

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Re: 'The Lottery' documentary shows education is a sure bet
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2010, 08:42:58 pm »
There are several issues here.

I am told that the NYC test is less rigorous than the national standard so that there is a “lowering of the bar” citywide. So the “Impressive Results” aren’t all that impressive.

The other issue is that the Charter School movement is being used to break the New York City Teachers Union.

I myself am a proud union member as my father was before me.

That said, #$%^ the Teachers Union. I have zero empathy for them.

Too many of its constituents think that they have a right to that job. I deal with employer-employee disputes at my job and some of them have had to do with the Dept of Education. So I know what goes on at some of these schools. And as far as I’m concerned, if you are more concerned with protecting your turf than teaching kids yours ass needs to go. If you are busy screaming for your Union Rep every time your principal looks at you sideways your ass needs to go. You pretty much would have to be caught dealing drugs in the school hallway to get fired as a member of the Teachers Union. 

I have quota and professional standards to maintain and if I don’t-it’s my @$$. Why should Teachers be any different?

Tossing the #$%^-ups out would go a LONG WAY to improving the Public School situation.


While the teachers union needs reform, the larger issue at hand is union busting and that ultimately affects the students as well. If many of their parents had union representation they wouldn't be working 2 jobs to earn a living wage.

If Emperor Bloomberg and the good chancellor are concerned aboput reform they will take the 2005 option. Teachers receive no salary increases but regain the rights they lost in 2005.

As a New Yorker I am embarassed to say that many other states are watching the current debacle that exists in NYC and are adamant about not having mayor control because of it.

Offline jefferson L.O.B. sergeant

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Re: 'The Lottery' documentary shows education is a sure bet
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2010, 08:46:04 pm »
JS,
I respectfully defer to your greater knowledge of the particular situation in NYC. I was speaking of charter schools in general. If, in fact, charters are being positioned to replace public schools, that is essentially a privatization and not a use of charters that I would be inclined to defend. I am arguing for a role for charters in improving public schools overall, not a takeover. In my model, charters would be only a small percentage of the public school system. I am for a robust and effective public school system.

 

From what I've read and witnessed; NY is being touted as the model for charter schools across the country.

I'm happy that political survival prompted the Gov. of Florida to reject the New York model there.