.

The Case against a Senior Academy at Drew Charter

Drew stakeholders’ aim to extend into high school also manifests what fairly may be called the “Success to the Successful” trap.

Certainly, laud Drew Charter School’s record of outstanding success. Still, because it is implicit in their intention, one must ask why are Drew stakeholders more self-circumscribed and less systemically open in their thinking and behavior toward wanting to contribute to improving the whole of public education in City of Atlanta?

One must also ask why Drew stakeholders have not the intention to foster achievement for everyone within the newly formed Jackson Cluster and, more importantly, for everyone within our Atlanta Public Schools (APS) system, if indeed lessons APS might learn from Drew’s outstanding success have a chance of benefiting the whole district, systemically.

Instead, by their wanting no more than to extend Drew Charter School to include a 9-12 high school, or senior academy, Drew stakeholders are saying they intend to tightly hold to their collective chest knowledge that, if shared, could compromise them at the expense of benefitting APS, systemically. 

Knowingly or unwittingly, Drew stakeholders simply manifest free-market “Choice” proponents’ belief that charter schools must be competition for regular public schools.  It is a belief that leads quite naturally to behaving as if Drew must win and APS must lose.

'By their wanting no more than to extend Drew Charter School to include a 9-12 high school, or senior academy, Drew stakeholders are saying they intend to tightly hold to their collective chest knowledge that, if shared, could compromise them at the expense of benefitting APS, systemically.'

Drew stakeholders’ aim to extend into high school also manifests what fairly may be called the “Success to the Successful” trap.  The trap is one that stimulates believing if one was successful once, then one naturally deserves to be successful again, and again, and again, and so on.

However, the more the Success to the Successful trap plays out, the more it becomes a vicious cycle to achieve two goals: (1) to limit success to those judged superior, hence deserving of even more success; and, (2) to deny success to those judged inferior, hence undeserving of success.  In effect, the trap is a definition of competition.

And who judges who is deserving of success and who is not?  Why, the ever fewer successful do, of course.  And they will compete to do so.
 
The trap is so common as to be believed a fact of life; for example, the superintendent that invites valedictorians into his or her presence so as to learn from them, yet never extends any such invitation to dropouts or to students likely to drop out because they aren’t the successful students, that as the unsuccessful ones they have nothing to say worth listening to, let alone learning from.

Thus the Success to the Successful trap poses being a highly effective and efficient means by which to dismantle public education and/or to limit learning how to improve it.  In any case, the Success to the Successful trap effectively attacks the sustainability of democratic ideals in service to the common good, as well.

Atlanta Board of Education (ABE) is free to assume Drew Charter School exemplifies the quality of teaching and learning the board desires for all APS schools.  If this be their assumption, then ABE also must assume it is their obligation to go learn why Drew’s success happened and how it happened.

Having thusly learned, ABE must then extend their obligation to coming back to the public to articulate why and how lessons learned from Drew’s outstanding success can serve to improve teaching and learning throughout APS and their leadership of the same.

But if for some reason ABE will not take responsibility for carrying through with the totality of their obligation – be it be deemed impossible, impractical, ineffable, too costly, too politically risky, whatever the reason – that reason will be an inescapably necessary and sufficient signal that ABE wants to allow Drew Charter School to, at best, remain a non-value adding proposition for APS, systemically, and, at worse, lay a trap guaranteed to limit outstanding teaching and learning success to a relatively few.

Would ABE really do that?  Why would they?

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Ed Johnson July 06, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Anyone thinking I want to “STOP all charters” is simply grabbing at straws. My concern isn’t with charter schools, per se. My concern, again, is with improving our K-12 public education systems for the sake of sustaining democratic ideals in service to the common good, and charter schools, per se, cannot possibly do that. Why? Because charter schools, by definition and taken in total, can only contribute to fragmenting our country more than it already is. Charter schools, by definition and taken in total, are the “divisive” element. Charter schools, taken in total, are much like the proverbial “fly in the soup.” Of course this wasn’t Albert Shanker’s idea for charter schools, but this is what a lot of opportunistic, self-serving interests have made of his idea. Today, competitive spirits of economics rather than a collective spirit of societal responsibility determine the comings and goings of charter schools, and children be damned when the economics don’t work out.
Ed Johnson July 06, 2012 at 11:22 PM
As president of the Atlanta Area Deming Study Group for six years, the group met monthly or quarterly on the Georgia Tech campus offering programs specifically aimed at introducing quality principles and methods for improving K-12 public education systems. Guest presenters ranged from then UGA Chancellor Stephen Porch, a Deming proponent, to two APS Therrell High School students who made the case for Beverly Hall to not “reconstitute” their school. Beverly Hall did it, anyway. We generally had participation from throughout the metro Atlanta area, frequently from various parts of Georgia, and sometimes from out of state. When before my time as president we hosted W. Edwards Deming to conduct his famous “Four Day Seminar,” we had folks from out of country, Russia and a few other places. Now, guess how many times someone from APS attended one of our meetings. Once! That’s right, one time. I relate this in case someone gets it stuck in their head that I am all cozy with and non-critical of APS. Not at all. However, it is not my desire to make APS a loser on account my self-interests, so toward that aim I will always first seek cooperation over competition, something charter schools cannot do, inherently.
Chris Murphy July 07, 2012 at 02:21 PM
It's not the system used that is of utmost importance, it is the individuals involved. That APS is staffed from top to bottom with those who look forward more to a paycheck and pension than to the success of the student body, the charters provide an alternative. Those employees of APS with integrity- and competence- hang on by their fingernails. Democracy doesn't require that all suffer the decisions of a few; democracy means that citizens have a stake in the decisions they make. Charter schools have allowed parents to take an active part in their kids' educations, rather than just show up for APS PR Nights. When someone claims to want "cooperation over competition," yet constantly demogogues and lectures, you have to ask what their real aim is- personal recognition? This isn't a 'voice in the wilderness,' it's a semi-coherent rant of someone who- despite all indications to the contrary- wants to be seen as the smartest person in the room.
Tris Sicignano July 07, 2012 at 03:32 PM
I apologize. Clearly you are not anti charter."Charter schools, by definition and taken in total, are the “divisive” element. Charter schools, taken in total, are much like the proverbial “fly in the soup.” " Your stance is clearly a case by case stance on education. One question. How can you in one breath state that Drew's intention is to "hold to their collective chest knowledge" when you yourself with the sole intention and purpose of improving all schools could not get APS interested in partaking in the knowledge base that you gathered for them? "Now, guess how many times someone from APS attended one of our meetings. Once! That’s right, one time.". It appears that your focus should be on APS. Ask APS why they have not gone to successful schools around the world, country or even within the city limits to learn about what is working. We in Atlanta have various school models (both traditional and charter) successfully serving multiple demographics. Please ask APS and the board what THEY have done to learn from these successful models. You appear to want to blame successful models for not forcing their knowledge onto APS. This knowledge is ready to be shared APS need only ask and open its mind to collaboration.
Roger K. July 07, 2012 at 03:39 PM
The biggest reason Drew is a success is because they find creative ways to develop their staff and they find ways to get the resources into the classroom as opposed to some bloated administrative overhead. That's one BIG lesson that APS could learn.

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